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U.S. and UK Both Drop in Latest ‘World Press Freedom Index’ Rankings

by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:

Reporters without Borders just published its annual World Press Freedom Index rankings, and the results for both the U.S. and UK are not impressive. Both countries declined two spots from last year, with the UK at 41, and the greatest and most free nation on earth, America, down to 43.

Here’s The Guardian reporting on the UK’s decline:

Journalists in the UK are less free to hold power to account than those working in South Africa, Chile or Lithuania, according to an index of press freedom around the world.

Laws permitting generalised surveillance, as well as a proposal for a new espionage act that could criminalise journalists and whistleblowers as spies, were cited by Reporters Without Borders as it knocked the UK down two places from last year, to 40th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index.

In the past five years, the UK has slipped 12 places down the index. Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s UK bureau director, said this year’s ranking would have been worse were it not for a general decline in press freedom around the world, making journalists in Britain comparatively better off than those in countries such as Turkey and Syria.

RSF, which campaigns for free speech, warned of a general erosion of media freedom in English-speaking, democratic countries. The US, long considered a bastion of freedom of speech thanks to the first amendment of its constitution, also dropped two places, to 43rd. Canada fell four places, to 22nd, and New Zealand slipped eight places, to 13th.

Among the concerns raised by RSF was the passage of the UK’s “menacing” Investigatory Powers Act last November, which met only token resistance within parliament, despite giving UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world.

RSF said the act was a possible “death sentence” for investigative journalism in Britain, owing to its lack of protections for whistleblowers, journalists and their sources, and that it set a damaging precedent for other countries to follow.

“The government failed to protect journalists when it passed the Investigatory Powers Act. Now, the Law Commission has proposed to send them to prison if they so much as handle official data. This comes at a time when we must be able to hold the government to account over its vast surveillance powers … Mass surveillance chills freedom of expression and undermines democracy.”

Moving along, what about the shining city on a hill? Land of the free, home of the brave, the world’s indispensable nation!

Here’s what Reporters without Borders had to say about the U.S. as it dropped two spots to 43.

US press freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has encountered several major obstacles over the past few years, most recently with the election of President Donald Trump. He has declared the press an “enemy of the American people” in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, while attempting to block White House access to multiple media outlets in retaliation for critical reporting. Despite the bleak outlook under Trump, it bears repeating that his predecessor left behind a flimsy legacy for press freedom and access to information. Journalists continue to be arrested for covering various protests around the country, with several currently facing criminal charges. The Obama administration waged a war on whistleblowers who leaked information about its activities, leading to the prosecution of more leakers than any previous administration combined. To this day, American journalists are still not protected by a federal “shield law” guaranteeing their right to protect their sources and other confidential work-related information. And over the past few years, there has been an increase in prolonged searches of journalists and their devices at the US border, with some foreign journalists being prevented from any travel to the US after they covered sensitive topics such as Colombia’s FARC or Kurdistan.

If you think that’s bad, imagine where the U.S. will end up if the DOJ actually goes forward with charges against Julian Assange?

Read More @ LibertyBlitzkrieg.com

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