Last week, the international organization Reporters without Borders released its annual Press Freedom Index.
Perhaps somewhat surprising for many is that the United States ranks only 36th on the list–and that is an increase of 12 places over last year. Reporters without Borders writes:
“The United States rose twelve places to 36th position. The release of Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj after six years in the Guantanamo Bay military base contributed to this improvement. Although the absence of a federal “shield law” means the confidentiality of sources is still threatened by federal courts, the number of journalists being subpoenaed or forced to reveal their sources has declined in recent months and none has been sent to prison. But the August 2007 murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey in Oakland, California, is still unpunished a year later. The way the investigation into his murder has become enmeshed in local conflicts of interest and the lack of federal judicial intervention also help to explain why the United States did not get a higher ranking. Account was also taken of the many arrests of journalists during the Democratic and Republican conventions.”
However, at the same time, its not that surprising. The United States is currently engaged in two occupations and the Index finds that it is “peace” that guarantees press freedom. In recent years, the government has increasingly managed and restricted journalists’ coverage of those wars and even provided misleading information in an effort to use the media to build support for wars.