Press Freedom Index 2014: USA Falls to 46th Place

Meanwhile, in the Land of the Free

The Press Freedom Index of 2014 has seen the United States of America fall 13 places to rank 46th out of the 180 countries surveyed. The United States continues to suffer due to post 9/11 legislation curbing press freedom, including legal restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act.  The United Kingdom is also down three places, to 33rd. Examples of new restrictions on press freedom in the United Kingdom include the harassment of Glenn Greenwald and his partner David Miranda as well as the raiding of The Guardian headquarters.

Persecution of whistleblowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden contributed to the major decline in the ranking of the United States. And journalist Barrett Brown, who faces over one hundred years in prison for leaking documents from private intelligence company Stratfor, is another example of the severe restrictions faced by journalists in the USA cited by Reports Without Borders.

It only takes a few harsh punishments to create a chilling effect whereby individuals self-censor due to the fear of government pressure or persecution. “Environment and self-censorship” is one of the criteria used in the methodology used by Reporters Without Borders to generate the rankings for the Press Freedom Index. Paraguay, like the United States of America, also fell 13 places due to strong pressure upon journalists to self-censor.

Countries similar to the United States in press freedom:

44. Papua New Guinea
45. Romania
46. United States of America
47. Haiti
48. Niger

The top 5:

1. Finland
2. Netherlands
3. Norway
4. Luxembourg
5. Andorra

African countries with more press freedom than the United States:

Namibia (#22)
Cape Verde (#24)
Ghana (#27)
Suriname (#31)
Botswana (#41)
South Africa (#42)

This may come as a surprise — it may seem unbelievable — to many Americans. The vast majority of US citizens have never left their own country (although only one third of Americans own a passport, only 3.5% travel overseas) and have been taught from a very young age that the United States of America is one of the, if not the, most free country on the planet. For individuals who are accustomed to curbed freedoms and only hear through second-hand stories how “unfree” the rest of the world is, these results may cause a great deal of cognitive dissonance. The same phenomenon can be observed in the recent Win/Gallup End Of Year Survey that found although most of the world’s citizens view the United States of America as the greatest threat to peace, American citizens view Iran as the world’s greatest threat. The beliefs of Americans largely reflect the American narrative.

Reporters Without Borders: World Press Freedom Index 2014

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