US witch hunts sink press freedom ranking

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The United States fell a whopping 13 places in this year’s World Press Freedom Index, ending up in 46th place behind former Iron Curtain states like the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania and barely beating out Haiti.

(For comparison, Cuba ranks 170th, the Russian Federation 148th and China 175th.) The index, published by published by Reporters Without Borders, “spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists.”

The US ranking reflects several negative developments, including the pursuit of Edward Snowden and efforts to force reporter James Risen to testify against an alleged source. In the US, RWB observes, “the whistleblower is the enemy.”

Hence the 35-year jail term imposed on Private Chelsea/Bradley Manning for being the big WikiLeaks source, an extremely long sentence but nonetheless small in comparison with the 105-year sentence requested for freelance journalist Barrett Brown in a hacking case. Amid an all-out hunt for leaks and sources, 2013 will also be the year of the Associated Press scandal, which came to light when the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had seized the news agency’s phone records.

RWB ranked the United Kingdom 33rd in press freedom, citing its  “disgraceful pressure” on The Guardian and detention of David Miranda. “Both the US and UK authorities seem obsessed with hunting down whistleblowers instead of adopting legislation to rein in abusive surveillance practices that negate privacy, a democratic value cherished in both countries,” concluded RWB.

The top five countries for press freedom were: Finland (1), Netherlands (2), Norway (3), Luxembourg (4) and Andorra (5).

Photo by the_kid_cl at Flickr Creative Commons