Freedom of the Press

We can believe what we get from our press, yes?

Americans overwhelming get their information from the Western news media because we have “freedom of the press.” Despite what people think, US news is biased towards reporting what gets viewers or readers, and in part by what the US government is involved in.

In 2014, the “freedom” of the US press fell from 32nd to 46th in the world, on the World Press Freedom Index. This is one of the most significant declines on the report. This moves us back to the level we had in 2012 when we had a rating of 47th due to the crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement. This year’s decline has been due to the conflict between national security imperatives and respect for the principles of the First Amendment.

Canada landed at 18th in 2014, still down 8 from 2012 due to obstruction of journalists during the Maple Spring student movement. Russia remained even at 148th, largely because of opposition protests leading to tighter control of even the internet.

Ukraine set the worst record since the Orange Revolution in 2004, two years in a row, with violence towards journalists at an all time peak. The dropped 1 point over last year to 127th, putting them in the “not free” category. It is expected they will fall further later in 2014, due to the political unrest, the ouster of television stations not backing the “new government,” continued violence against journalists, and tighter control of the internet. I expect Russia will fall further during 2014 as well, as a result of their coverage of Ukraine.

How about the EU? In most cases, the EU ranks as more free in reporting than the US. Some examples: France is at 39, the UK is at 33, Cyprus 25, Belgium 23, Germany 14, Ireland 16, Austria 12, Estonia 11, Denmark 7, and Finland 1. These countries remain relatively stable over the past couple years, with the largest fall being the UK, which dropped only 4 positions. The World Press Freedom Index report will tell you why they stay stable, or why they have rises or falls.

This is one of the reasons I always balance what I see/hear/read in the US (or Russia) against what the EU is reporting in sources like BBC and The Local (German). I find they have more balanced views.

I mention all this to show that political issues do affect freedom of the press across the globe quite a bit, including in “free press” countries like the US and Canada.

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