New reports critical of press freedom in U.S.
Despite many Americans holding the First Amendment near and dear to their hearts, freedom of speech and the press within the country has suffered greatly according to new reports.
When discussions of press freedom arise, countries like Jamaica, Costa Rica and Uruguay are not usually among the countries involved in the discussion. Freedom of expression has long been one of the major civil liberties that activists have sought to defend for years in the United States. Dating back to the days of the Founding Fathers, these ideas and democracy have been inextricably linked as a way in which citizens can offer criticism towards the government.
There have been a number of attempts throughout history to limit these freedoms in the United States that have widely been defeated. Lately however, the press and expression as a whole has come under greater control of the government and in doing so, limiting the the rights of citizens.
Press Freedom Index concerns
Reporters Without Borders released its ranking for its Press Freedom Index and has found that there is a strong link between democracies and open expression. By allowing for an free dialogue regarding government criticisms the voice of the people can be better represented in legislative proceedings. The Secretary General of the organization, Christophe Deloire, elaborated on this relationship.
"The Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders does not take direct account of the kind of political system," he said, "but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted."
This is why the ranking of the U.S. is rather alarming. According to the Index, the country ranked 32nd in the world, being beat out by countries such as Australia, Ghana and Suriname. While the country has moved up 15 spots since last year, these numbers still have a far ways to go, especially when "democracy" is often one of the major pillars of the country's foreign policy.
Federal government "falls short of promise"
This ranking can perhaps be better understood in the context of a recent report from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The report is the first of its kind from the CPJ and indicates that surveillance programs within the United States have been a major reason to blame for the limitations on freedom.
When President Barack Obama first took office, he pledged to make the government transparent, however, the report finds that this has been just the opposite. Since 2009, there have been six government employees and two contractors, one of which was Edward Snowden, that that have been pursued under the 1917 Espionage Act, but what is arguably more concerning is that there have been a total of three such instances in all the previous presidential administrations.
Looking at the Edward Snowden leaks about the PRISM scandal as a reference, this becomes increasingly alarming given that the information that came out revealed that the program actually violated the privacy rights of citizens' as opposed to an actual act of "spying."
On top of this, a number of journalists have come under greater scrutiny as of late. The report explains that journalists and their government contacts who provide this information are growing increasingly concerned that their emails and wires could be tapped by the government because of the information that they publish. This is making both the journalists and contacts fearful of publishing this kind of information in the future.
Unfortunately, as the government pursues this kind of action, it says it is doing the opposite.
"President Obama had said that default should be disclosure," a New York Times reporter told the news source. "The culture they've created is not one that favors disclosure."
This makes one wonder how democratic of a society has the U.S. become.