According to Reporters Without Borders, America dropped 13 spots on the World Press Freedom Index 2014, designed to rank 180 countries in terms of the freedoms journalists enjoy and the regulations placed on them by government authorities.
The Index, published Feb. 11, shows that America now ranks number 46, below countries like South Africa and France. The Index has been published annually since 2002, but the 2014 ranking for America marks one of the most significant declines ever reported.
According to Christophe Deloire, the Reporters Without Borders Secretary General, the World Freedom Index is based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure.
Investigative journalist James Risen believes the Index rightly shows the drop in American journalists’ freedoms due to crackdowns on reporters and whistleblowers and the efforts of the Obama administration and the National Security Agency to limit the amount of information America has concerning the “War on Terror” and other subjects.
“I think 2013 will go down in history as the worst year for press freedom in the United States modern history,” James Risen said.
Risen, who has reported for the New York Times since 1998, said he has personally felt some of the backlash of the guarded Obama administration and has seen some of his colleagues suffer repercussions as well.
Rather than pursue journalists, the Obama administration has focused on their sources–the two most scrutinized whistleblowers being Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.
“We have an administration that came in claiming that it was going to be the most transparent in history when in fact it is one of the most secretive in history, and certainly the most aggressive anti-press administration in modern American history,” Risen said.
The day after Obama’s inauguration in 2009, he signed an executive order into law that would hold the government accountable to the American public.
“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” Obama said.