US ranks 41st on global press freedom list

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The United States ranked 41st in global press freedom by an international journalist advocacy group in an annual list released on Wednesday. 

Reporters Without Borders claimed that, despite being enshrined in the Constitution, freedom of the press “has encountered a major obstacle” in the U.S. due to “the government’s war on whistleblowers.” 

Reporters Without Borders also chided the U.S. for not establishing a federal “shield law” protecting journalists from having to reveal their sources.

{mosads}The ranking was actually an eight-spot improvement over 2015, when the U.S. came in 49th in the world.

The Obama administration has been harshly criticized by press freedom advocates for an intensified crackdown on government officials who knowingly leak information to the press. Since President Obama entered office in 2009, his administration has used a 1917 anti-espionage law against leakers more than all other administrations combined.   

At the top of the 180-nation World Press Freedom Index is Finland, which has been No. 1 for the last five years.

At the bottom is Eritrea, a small East African nation that has been accused of severe human rights abuses.

Overall, the 2016 report reflects continued anxiety about free press from authoritarian leaders, claimed Reporters Without Borders secretary general Christophe Deloire.

“It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” he said in a statement. “The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who chairs the congressional caucus for freedom of the press, said in a statement that the Wednesday report “paints a sad and dangerous picture for journalists across the world.”

“We must take this matter seriously, and commit ourselves to actions that preserve and defend the rights of journalists at home and abroad,” he added. 

Updated at 2:46 p.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Freedom of the press Reporters Without Borders
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