No, US Press Freedom Is Not In Dire Decline

Friday, February 14, 2014


This week, the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index, ranking the media environment of nearly every nation on earth from most free to least. The United States landed, embarrassingly, in 46th place, a 13-place drop from last year. The rank -- below Lithuania, El Salvador and Botswana -- has set off a panic-stricken (and in some instances, gleeful) barrage of media coverage declaring that press freedom in the US is “plunging,” “plummeting,” and “profoundly eroding.” Bob talks with Washington Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher about why he's suspicious of these headlines. 


Max Fisher

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Bob Garfield

Comments [9]


After reading and listening to the comments, especially the interview with Max Fisher the only thing that is very clear is that the press these days is following the old adage that, "No News is Good News" Because that's what we get, no newa!

Feb. 17 2014 04:06 PM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

This is a refreshing report.

Journalists are universally ignorant and illiterate, with respect to mathematics (specifically, statistics) and science.

Journalists occasionally espouse the (unconstitutional) idea that there be a legal distinction made between those among their number who have completed a course at some or other "School of Journalism" and those who ascended to the job from copyboy, or whatever. It's fun to speculate about the educational requirement one might require to confer such a distinction as "State Approved Journalist" (like "State Approved Tiddlywinks Player"):

1) candidate for title of "Professional Journalist" must be able to complete a high school chemistry course with a passing grade;

2) candidate for title of "Professional Journalist" must be able to complete an Introduction to Statistics course (and pre-requisites) with a passing grade.

Of course this eventuality would reduce the pool of candidates to zero.

Feb. 16 2014 08:17 PM

It would be nice if the topic of media consolidation could be partnered with the study of press freedom.

The Corporate hold over broadcast, cable, satellite, telecom, internet & wireless is a $$$ death grip.

The FCC failure to declare internet over all delivery systems a common carrier utility & separate from any content the ISP may offer is anti-consumer & counterproductive economically, educationally & is miserable in terms of personal privacy, security of information & lack of control over what information, in which forms is already being sold & will continue to be sold in the future.

Feb. 16 2014 04:33 PM
joel McCoy from germany

Laura Portras lives in Berlin, Glenn Greenwald lives in Brazil, both for reasons of safety from immediate reactionary government censorship pressures.
The American media is a muzzled dog that must be careful to couch what it says to not offend. American broadcast production for non-self-censoring media should be off-shored (Venezuela, Cuba, Switzerland, Finnland) and the real reporters should be filing their encrypted reports to editors facilities there. This would insulate reporters and editors somewhat from the 'Justice Department' with plausible deniability and jurisdictional haziness that would require much more publicly embarrassing censorship methods of the government.

Feb. 16 2014 10:07 AM
Aaron Parker-Fasel from Austin TX

I would like to assure Max Fisher that that quote is not obscure at all. It is the A #1 quote of George W. Bush's career.

Feb. 15 2014 04:49 PM

Max Fisher may have been suspicious (as well he might) but I'm fairly certain that the story wasn't as was stated in the lead-in, as the story wasn't, how to say... alive. The story may have been *suspect*, but suspicious? Not so much.

Feb. 15 2014 12:53 PM
Douglas from Miles from nowhere

A downfall in the U.S. ranking could be attributed to the U.S. Government's wiretapping of reporters' telephone conversations with terrorism-related informants.

Feb. 15 2014 11:50 AM
marty siegrist from Michigan

It strikes me as we discuss press freedom in the US that it may not be the government stifling (or attempting to stifle) the press, so much as it is the ownership of media outlet stifling (or attempting to stifle) reporting that does not fit in with their overarching political (or philosophical) narrative, or with their financial goals. Media ownership has become very concentrated in recent years, to the detriment of press quality, overall.

Feb. 15 2014 07:50 AM
Thatwood B. Telling from The Village

I'm no jingoist. I'm not even much of a patriot. But I will say this for the U.S.: our press is pretty damned free. It's not very good (as evidenced by the "reporting" on this study), but it's at least free. Sensational news releases from authors of studies like this one, while ginning up some interest in the short term, are counterproductive to the author's goals and the interests of democracy in the long run.

Feb. 14 2014 11:03 PM

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