Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

US Slips Again In Freedom of the Press Ranking 989

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the gosh-at-least-citizen's-rights-aren't-being-eroded dept.
npwa writes to tell us Reporters Without Borders has released their annual worldwide press freedom index. While developing nations like Haiti and Mauritania continue to gain ground developed nations like France, Japan, and the US continue their downward spiral. From the article: "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 recognise the media's right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Slips Again In Freedom of the Press Ranking

Comments Filter:
  • by onion2k (203094) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:41AM (#16557440) Homepage
    This post has been censored.
  • by Macthorpe (960048) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:43AM (#16557452) Journal
    Hm, well this isn't from Fox News, so it's blatantly just not true.

    I only accept news from reputable, unbiased news sources.
  • Yay Canada (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brunes69 (86786) <<gro.daetsriek> <ta> <todhsals>> on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:48AM (#16557480) Homepage
    #1 non-European country baby! ...er.. yeah :)
  • The fact that you can complain about it here like the above says we're not *that* bad yet. If you stop seeing anyone complaining at all, then you know things are REALLY bad... those people are being censored/arrested/etc.
  • by krell (896769) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:53AM (#16557518) Journal
    I wonder if they take into account such matters as government presence and control in media (since this is inversely proportional to how free the press and media are). It's kind of high in the UK (BBC) and kind of low in the US (as indicated by the low ratings of PBS and NPR, and how nobody really knows about VOA).

    Finland, the #1 country, actually has strong government-controlled media (with government radio making up 61% of listening time).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:01AM (#16557578)
      There's a difference between government-funded and government-controlled media.
      The Finnish YLE, along with the BBC and others, is funded by the government (mostly through a specified tax on all TV sets), but the government do not control what they air. They set guidelines, but do not censor.
    • The BBC? (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm not sure I agree with your view of the BBC. Yes, it's funded in part through a form of taxation, but it's hardly a spokesobject for the administration. On the contrary, it's often the government's biggest critic among popular media, and it has a good reputation for accuracy and impartiality, even when reporting on itself. It seems closer to the case in Finland than you're giving it credit for.

      • Re:The BBC? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by i_should_be_working (720372) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:43AM (#16558058)
        It may be that in the case of well established democracies, like the UK and Finland, there is never the need to criticize to the point where a journalist could get in trouble. Sure the press can ridicule and criticize the ruling party, but what happens when they start ridiculing and criticizing the system itself? Doing things like calling for a theocracy, or for the queen to be arrested? I think you'd quickly see the government asserting their control over the press with a heavy hand.

        Of course, calling for a theocracy or arrest of royalty would be a crazy thing to do and will probably never happen in countries like modern Britain and Finland, since everything is going fairly well. Some of those countries who rank low on this freedom-of-press scale may not be so bad when it comes to press freedom, it's just that the country itself is so messed up that the solutions border on treason, so when the journalists call for the proper solution, they get in trouble.

        There are several countries I can think of that, since the end of the cold war, have been able to get a fledgling democracy going. But at the same time there are factions still trying to instigate war, or otherwise topple the government. The press in places like that may be allowed to criticize the current president or prime minister and the way they do things, but as soon as they criticize the system itself as a whole, they are considered to be siding with insurgents/revolutionaries. Which may actually be the right thing to do if the government is turning totalitarian.

        So, it may be fine to have state sponsored media when things are all well and good, but when things go sour it might be better to have some media that is completely, politically and economically, independent of any part of the government.
    • by Peregr1n (904456) <ian.a.ferguson@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:11AM (#16557710) Homepage
      It seems to be a common mistake that people outside of Britain think the BBC is government controlled. It isn't; in fact it's usually the first to be critical of the government.

      The BBC is THE most impartial news agency I know - part of their mandate is to be unbiased, and as there's no politically biased financiers, and no advertisers, they can be free to criticise anyone.

      It isn't funded by the government either; it is paid for by the license fee, which is mandatory for anyone with a TV set, which admittedly does imply some kind of state control, but if the government did try to interfere there would be a massive outcry.

      Put it this way: I'm British, and I'd take the BBC over any independant news agency financed by advertisers any day :-)
      • by Aim Here (765712) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:01AM (#16558296)
        Erm, I do prefer the BBC over any of the corporate media outlets, but you're dead wrong on government interference. The obvious cases would be the banning, for twenty years, of Peter Watkins' "The War Game" in 1966, the banning of Alan Clarke's 'Scum' for about 10 years, and the confiscation of Duncan Campbell's 'Zircon' documentary and the ridiculous silencing of Sinn Fein's spokespeople in the 1980s.

        Those are obvious because there WAS the public outcry you talk about. You don't often hear about many instances of BBC censorship, like say, the BBC blocking of dozens of programs on the subject of Northern Ireland, dating back to the 1950s, including silliness such as a Star Trek: TNG episode cut for mentioning the IRA, and an Alan Whicker documentary on betting shops banned for showing, in passing, sectarian graffiti. One study showed about 50-60 Northern Ireland related programs were actually censored as of 1987, and the knock-on effect of programme-makers preempting the censors and not submitting controversial material would constitute the 'chilling effects' that US lawpeople talk about.

        It's probably going to get worse soon too. The next time the BBC pisses off the government in some way, then Rupert Murdoch is going to have another crack at firing up his 'privatise the BBC' campaign, just like he did with Hutton. The BBC now has a clear incentive to toe the line...

        Sure, the advertising-supported corporate media aren't any better but the BBC has its own problems...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Oligonicella (659917)
        I then, presume you missed the announcement recently by the BBC that they were indeed actively biased in their reporting?

        Maybe the BBC didn't cover it?
    • by Mjlner (609829) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:33AM (#16557938) Journal
      "Finland, the #1 country, actually has strong government-controlled media (with government radio making up 61% of listening time)."

      (Speaking as a Finn.) Government-funded: yes. Government-controlled: no! Finnish law clearly states that government should not meddle in the affairs of YLE, the national broadcasting company, and governemnt has no power of censorship. While I normally tune in to YLE, I also follow it's private competitors on TV, which aren't far behind in the ratings and also offer top-notch reporting. So does the majority of Finns.

      What I fail to understand is why some people seem to think that a private company, with economical interests and investors in eg. the oil business and arms trade, would necessarily offer more reliable and impartial news than a publically funded company. Why would corporations somehow be more honest and unselfish than governments. I mean, sure, don't trust the government blindly, but why should you trust a corporation blindly? Perhaps you'd like your news a bit more Fair and Balanced?
  • by lovebyte (81275) * <lovebyte2000@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:53AM (#16557522) Homepage
    The problem with RSF ranking of countries is that it does not make a difference between institutions (basically, the government) threatening journalists and individuals or groups not linked to the government. So if some islamist group threatens, say, danish journalists/cartoonists, the ranking of Danemark will go down. That does not mean Danish journalists are not free to report on whatever they want. So what you see in this country ranking is that countries that are not involved in "world affairs" have a high ranking, while countries that are rather large, with numerous minorities and a voice in world affairs are lower. I think RSF (which has an important role to play) should provide a more sophisticated ranking than this all-in-one rubbish.

    • by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:01AM (#16557586)
      "So if some islamist group threatens, say, danish journalists/cartoonists, the ranking of Danemark [sic] will go down."

      That's a good point, but if that group's power or ability to levy punishment is significant, I think it makes sense to include. The reason censorship is wrong is that it's a violence-based denial of free speech. Whether it's a government, para-government, mafia, or militant group is largely irrelevant to the overall problem: lack of freedom. Presumably, the ranking takes into account the severity of the threat involved.
  • Denmark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @07:59AM (#16557556) Homepage Journal
    FTFA:

    ``Denmark (19th) dropped from joint first place because of serious threats against the authors of the Mohammed cartoons published there in autumn 2005. For the first time in recent years in a country that is very observant of civil liberties, journalists had to have police protection due to threats against them because of their work.''

    I don't see how this is supposed to work. These threats didn't come from the government (at least, it seems that way); in fact, the government _protected_ the journalists. And now, for thanks, they get a worse rating?
    • Re:Denmark (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jasin Natael (14968) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:19AM (#16557774)
      You are conflating a country with its government, which is perverted at best. The index is about how safe reporters in a certain country feel about publishing dissenting opinions or inconvenient truths. Just because the government aren't the ones holding a gun to your head, doesn't mean you'll suddenly feel OK publishing material that might cause any person or group to threaten your life, family, or livelihood with a reasonable chance of carrying out those threats.

      Freedom of the Press can be trampled on just as badly in a democracy as in a theocratic dictatorship; all it takes is a population of sufficiently violent, uneducated people with strong views, who have no respect for human rights and civil liberties. The end result is that, no matter who does the repressing, and no matter whether it's life, limb, property, or the ideals of liberty that are threatened, information which should be published, is not. And if there were any way to measure precisely what got published and what didn't, I'm sure it would make a better index -- but for now, this will probably have to suffice.

      • Re:Denmark (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Khomar (529552) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @10:18AM (#16559346) Journal
        all it takes is a population of sufficiently violent, uneducated people with strong views, who have no respect for human rights and civil liberties.

        As I was reading this, I could already see people making comments about those stupid Americans and uneducated, NASCAR-watching rednecks.... but some of the most hateful and dangerous comments come from the most educated people. Liberal campuses are very hateful toward conservative speakers often creating heckling mobs to try to disrupt their meetings. Professors routinely repress opposite points of view and openly deride those who try to express them. People are made to feel stupid if they have a difference of opinion because the "smart" people know all of the answers. To go against the opinions of the elite intelligensia is intolerable.

        The problem is that education creates pride, and pride often blinds people to the truth. Some of the most profound observations come from children -- the most uneducated of all of us -- because they are not bogged down by the distractions and biases that education brings. Yet, the educated feel they are above that, and since they know so much more than those around them, they silence the thoughts and observations of the others since they cannot possibly be right.

        One thing to remember with Americans is that compared to the world (not just Europe... there are other continents out there as well), we are very educated. Almost everyone has graduated from high school and a very large percentage of our population has been to or graduated from college. Yet there is a lot of hostility toward other points of views both from conservatives and liberals. I have certainly witnessed this harassment here on Slashdot where being conservative or religious can be grounds for modding down (regardless of the validity of the point) and Slashdot tends to be very educated. Censorship and repression of freedom are not only practiced by the ignorant -- but also by the proud.

  • president used the pretext of 'national security' to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his 'war on terrorism.

    That's not a bit of yellow-yournalism is it? The examples they give are very different than what the above sentence says, in fact they don't give any examples of reporters being treated suspiciously for merely questioning his "war on terrorsim", they do give examples of other things that are bad.

    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 recognise 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.


    By tring to throw in a completely un-needed "soundbite hook" like that they really do a disservice to their report, and it makes it look like they are doing a biased hatchet job than rather than a real report. That sentence does nothing for their report at all, other than give an opportunity for people to dicredit it.
  • Liberty vs Freedom (Score:3, Insightful)

    by N8F8 (4562) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:01AM (#16557582)
    I may not agree with a lot of that this organization says but.... The US makes a lot of noise about the importance of Freedom while at the same time fostering a system that is steadily eroding individual liberty. Just look at the size of the prison population and count how many police you pass on your way into work each day. Then ponder how many laws you are unintentionally breaking right now. A system where anyone can be nailed at anytime if they upset those in power (or are able to play the system).

    Freedon :Freedom is the right, or the capacity, of self-determination,as an expression of the individual will.

    Liberty: Liberty, or freedom, is a condition in which an individual has immunity from the arbitrary exercise of authority.
  • RSF is stupid (Score:4, Informative)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:19AM (#16557782) Journal
    RSF seems to be an organization of narcisstic reporters thinking big of themselves.

    It ranks India 105, mainly because it thinks one big Govt of India banned or censored the publication of the Danish Mohammad cartoons. What really happened was real vote bank politics very familiar to most Americans. India is a democracy with about 85 Hindus, 12% Muslims and the rest Christians and other smaller minorities. The Muslims vote as a block and all the political parties fall all over themselves, including the ruling Congress Party [*] to get that vote block. Hindu vote is split midway and the Muslims form the swing vote minority. State governments would routinely ban anything that offends Muslims and Christians. Or anything the self proclaimed leaders of Christians and Muslims declare that offends them. There is open season on Hindus. India should rank much closer to USA in this respect.

    If you look at the way Indian media portrays Hindus, Hindu deities and Hindu practices, something startling will emerge, which is again familiar to most Americans. Lurid details about financial, sexual and criminal activities by Hindu holymen is order of the day. A Muslim painter painted Hindu goddess of learning in the nude and all these reporters staunchly defended the freedom of expression of the artist, much like they defended the disgusting portrayal of Christ in a dirty bodily fluid in USA. Infact the mainstream Indian media's treatment of Hindus identical to the mainstream American media's portrayal of Christians in USA

    As for exposing corruption of the politicians, they record politicians taking bribes in hidden camera and broadcast it in National News. The only difference between India and USA is that, in India there is no Fox News for Hindus. But rest assured, it will come soon. Robert Murdoch owns quite a few networks there, and there is this seething discontent among the Hindus for being constantly portrayed negatively. It is a free market there. Someone is bound to serve that market.

    PS: The ruling party Congress is headed by a Roman Catholic Italian woman, widow of an assassinated ex Prime Minister. The President of India is a Muslim, nuclear/rocket scientist nominated to that office by the previous government largely declared to be a Hindu nationalist party. The previous defence minster was George Fernandes, a Christian. A country of 1 billion, 85% Hindu, 12% Muslim routinely elevates microscopic minority people (present Prime Minister is a Sikh) to the highest offices. When you despair about democracy, take heart. If Democracy can thrive in such a poor country like India, it can thrive anywhere.

    • Re:RSF is stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

      by anothy (83176) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:53AM (#16558174) Homepage
      India is a democracy with about 85 Hindus...
      i'm pretty sure there's more than 85 Hindus in India. ;-)

      i agree generally with your statements about democracy and diversity in India, but i do think you're painting a somewhat overly-rosy picture. there is the occasional spat of violence (as in bombs going off, not just some street brawl); last time i was there, a bomb went off the day i left the country. and while the "holy men" certainly above scrutiny, equating the outlook on Hindus in India to the outlook on Christians in the USA isn't really fair: certainly the civil calendar is much more based on Hindu festivals and they're much more ingrained in the secular culture of the country (it'd be something like if all half the country didn't show up for work on Ash Wednesday and all 12 days of Christmas were de facto holidays).
      still, the fact that it works as well as it does is pretty impressive, really. there's certainly no lack of bad blood, between the human tragedy that was Partition and the on-off war with Pakistan (among other things). yet it mostly just works. again, i agree in general, i just think you're overstating it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I am not finding fault with Indian media for their outing of the misdeeds of Hindu holymen. That is very appropriate. But they are not unbiased or even handed. The media and the govt is so scared of touching off sectarian violence they just dont report the misdeeds of the mullahs and the priests. That allows the violent criminals to seize power and control of these minority institutions. The poor muslims and christians are really the victims on multiple counts. Their voice is hijacked by the less than holy
  • Since the report was recently released (yesterday), I wonder if the US' ranking includes the fact that habeas corpus has more or less been abolished for any US citizen that the president deems to be an "enemy combatant"?? I'm guessing that after the election, there are going to be journalists who will be shut down (read: vanish) on the grounds that they are undermining the War on Terror(tm) by vocalizing criticism of administration policy.

    Then again, as a journalist, I'm a little bit biased in favor of the first amendment (for everyone, not just my viewpoint).
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:27AM (#16557868)
    Let me demonstrate the difference in what I know about.

    10 Hungary 3,00

    What does it tell you? It would be wrong to assume that the press is great in Hungary. It only means that the press is not physically threatened. That is freedom of journalism.

    Freedom of press also means that there is no outstanding bias in either way, which is simply not the case in ex-communist Hungary. Most of the press has been privatized into the hands of ex-communist businessman, so currently the press shows around 80%-20% bias towards the socialist side.

    The hungarian "public" tv is called state tv for a reason, even by European media experts, in contrast for example the BBC which does a good job at maintaining balance and trying not to be too biased to either side. That is freedom of the press.

    So yeah, you're free to write about what you want in Hungary, but informed opinion is hard to be established for the common people, because most of the domestic media is so biased. It is not even free market, when the government while doesn't jail journalists they don't like, but they do fund news sources they like (by advertising only in those papers for example) and boycott the ones they don't.
  • by nwbvt (768631) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:33AM (#16557936)

    "The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media's right not to reveal its sources"

    There is no such right, even though journalists love to pretend it is etched in the First Ammendment or something. And even if there were such a right, any responsible journalist wouldn't rely on anonymous sources anyways. They are notoriously unreliable (at least with a named source you can go back and verify what they said, and investigate how they know what they said they know). If I wrote "an anonymous official deep within the WhiteHouse said the other day that the Bush Administration only went to war in Iraq to get oil", that statement has no credibility. Yes, my "anonymous official" may have been Karl Rove himself, but it is just as likely (if not much more likely) that it was a janitor. I have essentially told you nothing while still making an attention grabbing headline.

    Many like to point to Watergate as an example where anonymous sources (Deepthroat) broke open a case, but that is just not true. Neither Woodward nor Bernstein wrote about something simply because Deepthroat told it to them, instead they used his information as a guide as they sought independent confirmation. Had they written about some anonymous source named after a porno flick who told them the president had broken the law, they would have been laughed out of Washington. Though I'm not sure if that would have happened today now that the public's expectations in terms of evidence seems to have been lowered to the point where any scandal becomes instant credible news.

  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes.xmsnet@nl> on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:35AM (#16557970)
    While the blurb headline may be construed as US-bashing, TFA does nothing of the sort, and shows that RSF has made a serious effort to measure freedom of the press. Also, the article merely confirms what everyone's been able to observe over the past few years. I see no FUD here, just a statement of fact.
  • Amazing! (Score:3, Informative)

    by traveller604 (961720) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:37AM (#16557984)
    What I find the most amazing here is that you americans are bitching about how the ranking is made, but not stuff like this:

    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.

    Land of the "free" eh?

    Anyways I'm proud to be finnish, we've been #1 since the first index was made in 2002 :)
    • Look, the reasoning is quite simple:

      1) al-Jazeera shows news articles portraying the US and its allies negatively, e.g. by showing photos and video footage of American soldiers killing or torturing civilians.
      2) This increases support for terrorism among their audience.
      3) Therefore al-Jazeera is providing material support to terrorists.
      4) Therefore al-Jazeera are all terrorists.
      5) Therefore al-Jazeera are all unlawful combatants captured on the battlefield while fighting against American soldiers.
      6) T

  • Oh woe is us (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheConfusedOne (442158) <the.confused.one@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:01AM (#16558288) Journal
    I suppose we're up for another healthy round of "bash Americ(kkk)a"? Please folks let's just give it all a rest.

    Let's see what we've got - the most egregious case of a reporter being prosecuted for refusing to reveal a source was the now infamous Plame "outing". Do I need to bother pointing out that it was the media's incessant demands for an investigation that led to this in the first place?

    Maybe we should instead look at the NYT's public editor's recent mea culpa where he admitted that the NYT shouldn't have broken the story about the SWIFT monitoring? Turns out that the program was secret, effective, and *gasp* legal. Oh well, NYT and the LAT got their scoop, secrets be damned.

    If we want to talk about press freedom how about we get worked up about the cartoon drawers who have had to go into hiding? How about the newspaper editors who have been killed? How about the riots that emerge anytime anyone even breaths something that could be misconstrued as insulting to Islam.

    Here's your press freedom quiz:
    1) You're reporting on riots caused by the release of some political cartoons. Do you show the cartoons?

    2) You're reporting on Iraq and you receive an obvious propoganda video of sniper shooting, do you show the video?

    CNN's answer was No and Yes, you can guess which order those were in.
  • by p3d0 (42270) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:21AM (#16558580)

    The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media's right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

    ERROR: Stack overflow

Remember, UNIX spelled backwards is XINU. -- Mt.

Working...