The United States experienced a major decline in press freedom over the past year according to the new annual study announced Feb. 11 by Reporters Without Borders. The world’s largest press freedom group announced also sharp declines in the Central African Republican and Guatemala, and “marked improvements” in Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa.
“2013 will go down in history as the worst year for press freedom in the modern history of the United States,” said New York Times investigative reporter James Risen as he moderated a panel at the National Press Club announcing the results in Washington, DC.
Risen said government obstruction and prosecution of whistleblowers has chilled reporting on public affairs in Washington, hurting the public and democratic values. The report cited a number of Obama administration prosecutions of leakers as a major reason for the decline in the ranking of the United States from 32th to 46th.
Risen, a Pulitzer-winner and noted author who has fought the threat of jailing for years to protect a reputed CIA source, was flanked by Reporters Without Borders United States Director Delphine Halgand and panelist Huong Nguyen in the photo at right by Noel St. John.
Nguyen said journalists are suffering a severe crackdown in her native Vietnam as she amplified a report finding that Vietnam is currently jailing 34 bloggers. Vietnam’s government has ordered in “Decree 72” that political news and comment are forbidden on social media and other unapproved electronic communications.
Tolga Tanis, Washington correspondent of the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, spoke also at the panel. He agreed with the report’s findings that his native Turkey has become one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists.
The report found that Syria ranks near the bottom of its rankings of 180 countries according to the seven criteria used. The report said 130 journalists and citizen “news providers” have been killed during Syria’s three-year civil war.