The US now ranks 1st out of 180 countries, though the report criticizes the Obama administration's 'obsessive control of information'.
The 2016 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), shows a “deep and disturbing” decline in respect for press freedoms. The report has been compiled every year since 2013, and this year the index fell 3.71 percent, 13.6 percent since the first index published.
“It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire.
Tighter government control of state-owned media in Turkey and Egypt, and more to the right in Poland, were seen as the reasons for biggest declines.
“The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests,” Deloire said. “Journalism worthy of the name must be defended against the increase in propaganda and media content that is made to order or sponsored by vested interests.”
The United States ranks 41st out of 180 countries in the index, a slight improvement over last year. Early in 2015, the Department of Justice stopped pressuring New York Times’ journalist James Risen to testify at trial involving Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer. This ended a seven year legal fight over whether Risen would identify his confidential sources.
“The main cause for concern for RSF continues to be the current administration’s obsessive control of information, which manifests itself through the war on whistleblowers and journalists’ sources, as well as the lack of government transparency, which reporters have continually criticized,” the report said. “The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA operative, was convicted solely on the basis of metadata in January 2015 of disclosing classified information to James Risen and is now serving a 3.5 year prison sentence.”