Is Latest U.S. Drop in Press Freedom Rankings Due to Obama’s Attacks on Whistleblowers and Journalists for Their Sources?

Friday, February 14, 2014
Barrett Brown

The United States has long prided itself on having a supportive atmosphere for the media to operate and uncover the news. But an international group of journalists say the U.S. reputation for press freedom has plummeted this year, leaving the country behind others not known for promoting the fourth estate.


According to the World Press Freedom Index, the U.S. now ranks 46th in the world. Last year, it ranked 33rd.


Today, countries like Ghana, Poland, and El Salvador rank higher for press freedom than the U.S.


Reporters Without Borders, which produces the annual rankings, says the decline in U.S. position is due to the Barack Obama administration crackdown on whistleblowers who have leaked classified information to journalists.


The administration, in fact, has gone after more whistleblowers through criminal prosecution than any other presidential administration in history.


Examples include Private Bradley Manning, who released thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden, who exposed myriad spying programs aimed at Americans as well as foreign leaders and citizens.


“U.S. journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a ‘shield law’ to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level,” the group wrote.


“The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Stratfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government,” Reporters Without Borders added.


While the U.S. certainly has issues regarding freedom of the press, writes Max Fisher of The Washington Post, in fact, a closer look at the data released yearly by Reporters Without Borders shows that the country has periodically gone up and down in the rankings. Two years ago, the nation placed 47th, and in 2006 it was in the 53rd position.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.S. Press Freedom Plunges to 46th, Placing it Behind Former Soviet States (by John Byrne, Raw Story)

U.S. Plummets in Global Press Freedom Rankings (by Josh Stearns, Free Press)

Is U.S. Press Freedom Really ‘Plummeting’? Not If You Look at the Data. (by Max Fisher, Washington Post)

World Press Freedom Index 2014 (Reporters Without Borders)

Justice Dept. Secretly Obtained Phone Records of Associated Press…Obama Crosses the Freedom of the Press Line (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Obama’s War on Leaks Found to be the “Most Aggressive since Nixon” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Ex-CIA Officer Arrested in Continuing Obama Attack on Alleged Leakers (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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