Terrorism & Security
US now ranks 53rd in World
Press Freedom Index
Fri Oct 27, 2006 23:09
Terrorism & Security
posted October 27, 2006 at 11:30 a.m.
US now ranks 53rd in World Press Freedom Index
US drops 9 places, partly due to suspicion of journalists
who question "war on terrorism."
By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
The news media advocacy organization Reporters Without
Borders released their fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom
Index this week, and it shows that the United States has
dropped 9 places since last year, and is now ranked 53rd,
alongside Botswana, Croatia and Tonga. The authors of the
report say that the steady erosion of press freedom in
countries like the US, France and Japan (two other countries
that slipped significantly on the index) is "very alarming."
The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last
year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the
Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush
administration sharply deteriorated after the president used
the pretext of "national security" to regard as suspicious
any journalist who questioned his "war on terrorism." The
zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states,
refuse to recognize the media's right not to reveal its
sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations
have no connection at all with terrorism.
Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned
when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese
cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab
broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since
June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and
Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by
US authorities in Iraq since April this year.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the organization
bases the index on responses to 50 questions about press
freedom asked of journalists, free press organizations,
researchers, human rights activists and others. Jurist
reports that the organization received responses from 168
countries, and "compiled based on "the degree of freedom
journalists and news organizations enjoy in each country,
and the efforts made by the state to respect and ensure
respect for this freedom."
The world's worst violators of press freedoms remains
unchanged from last year: North Korea, Eritrea,
Turkmenistan, Cuba, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China.
Iraq isn't much better, ranking 153rd out of 168 countries.
Voice of America reports that in the case of the US,
officials consider cameraman Sami al-Haj an enemy combatant
and said that photographer Bilal Hussein had links to
insurgents. Reporters Without Borders notes, however, that
neither has been charged with any crime during the time they
have been imprisoned, which is five years in the case of
Despite the drop in ranking for the US, Lucy Dalglish of the
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said in an
interview with, Al- Jazeera.net that it's important to
remember that the US is "still a comparatively safe place
for journalists to work."
"Despite going down the ranks, I think that the US is one of
the best places in the world to work as a journalist, and
one of the safest," she said.
Dalglish said that improvements by other countries may
account for the US dropping down the Press Freedom Index.
"In the last couple of years, there has been no serious
change for the worse in the US. Other countries may have
made substantial improvements in their press freedoms and
leapt ahead of the US, rather than US press freedom taking a
real turn for the worse," she said.
However, Dalglish said that the US administration had made
"veiled threats" against some journalists, accusing them of
"espionage" in order to encourage them to self-censor
Meanwhile the Committee to Protect Journalists is appealing
the Pentagon denial of a Freedom of Information Act request
to release information about the US bombing of the Baghdad
bureau of Al-Jazeera in 2003, where one journalist was
The formal appeal sent on Thursday followed a broadcast on
Britain's Channel 4 this week where former Home Secretary
(Interior Minister) David Blunkett was asked whether he
really wanted to "take out" Al-Jazeera around that time of
the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and
Britain. According to the Online Press Gazette, Blunkett in
the interview replied:
"It wasn't taking out Al Jazeera as a broadcaster, it was
taking out the capacity, just as in the Second World War had
we been able to take out Lord Haw Haw. I think people would
have been very glad."
When asked whether he feared such an attack would be outside
the rules of engagement, Blunkett said: "There wasn't a
worry from me because I believed that this was a war, and in
a war you wouldn't allow the broadcast to continue taking
In a recently published book by Pulitzer Prize-winning
reporter Ron Suskind, 'The One Percent Doctrine,' he writes
that he beleives the US deliberately bombed the Arab
satellite channel's office in Kabul, Afghanistan in order to
"send a message" to the station.
Dennis Miller's "Real Free Speech": Nancy Pelosi a "nimrod"
who is "intellectually ... not up to the task" of being
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