Press freedom in the United States and United Kingdom suffered major declines in the last year after the NSA leaks, according to the latest annual World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway. The report also highlights the last three positions which are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent.
The United States, which experienced a 13-place drop from last year, are mentioned under “Information sacrificed to national security and surveillance” chapter that states: “Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example, far from it. Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.”
The report highlights all recent major assaults on the freedom of press in the US: the conviction of US Army whistleblower Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, the chase of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the extensive worldwide surveillance conducted by the US intelligence, as well as the cases of freelance digital journalist Barrett Brown, who faces 105 years in prison for sharing a link to stolen classified data, and New York Times reporter James Risen, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling accused of leaking classified information.
The UK fell back just three places after the exposure of deep collaboration between American and British security and intelligence services in suppressing the freedom of the press, by the “disraceful pressure it put on The Guardian newspaper and by its detention of David Miranda, journalists Glenn Greenwald’s partner and assistant, for nine hours.”
“The ‘war on terror’ is also being exploited by governments that are quick to treat journalists as ‘threats’ to national security,” the report adds. “Dozens of journalists have been jailed on this pretext in Turkey (154th), especially for covering the Kurdish issue. In Morocco, unchanged in 136th position, the authorities readily confused journalism with terrorism since the case of online newspaper editor Ali Anouzla. In Israel (96th, +17), freedom of information is often sacrificed to purported security requirements.”
Ecuador (94th, +25), Bolivia (94th, +16) and South Africa (42nd, +11), along with Panama (87th, +25) and Dominican Republic (68th, +13) were among the countries that marked improvements during the last year, out of the total of 180.