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U.S. Ranks 17th in Freedom of the Press 1367

Posted by michael
from the even-canada-kicked-our-[censored] dept.
reimero writes "According to this article on Yahoo! Germany the U.S. has experienced "serious restrictions" in freedom of the press, according to Reporters without borders' first worldwide press freedom index. Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands came in tops. An interesting study, to say the least."
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U.S. Ranks 17th in Freedom of the Press

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:26PM (#4515375)
    ... that an article about lack of freedom of the press in the US, is published in germany?

  • by boa13 (548222) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:26PM (#4515377) Homepage Journal
    ... that the US doesn't have the best health system in the world, that the US doesn't have the best pension system in the world, and, globally, that the US are not the best place to live in the world.

    Of course, there are place far worse than the US. It just isn't the best, it seems.
    • by Darth Maul (19860) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:35PM (#4515505) Homepage
      Yeah, but things like health care and pensions are not in our Constitution. A *right* like freedom of the press IS protected from Government intrusion by our Constitution. So don't lump these all together.

      But I do not believe the problem is any Government intrusion on that right. It's more of a problem of media companies having to compete for ratings by sensationalizing and making sure stories are interesting. In that sense there is no true freedom of press because sometimes the truth is spun or slants are added to make it "interesting". And any "free" news agency that tries to report the actual news that is not one of the big guys (CNN, FOX, etc) is just seen a "conspiracy rag".

      Take for example someone trying to write an article pointing out some negative aspects of all the aid money we send to Israel. I'm not leaning one way or the other, but clearly, according to our media big dogs, Israel can do no wrong, so any article like that would be slapped as "anti-Semite" right away, and the newspaper labeled as some backwards commie tabloid. Just an example of what I see as the true limitation of our freedom of press here in the U.S...

      Thoughts?
      • by spacecowboy420 (450426) <rcasteen@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:02PM (#4515847)
        I have to say I agree. I have learned in order to get well-balanced news, you must read the story at several sources and concentrate on the facts that consistently rise to the top.

        I was pointing out the other day that US support of Israel would be but much less if we had an equal amount of Arab lobbyists - instantly I was labeled an anti-Semite and my opinion disregarded. This also happens to all media outlets that say anything non-PC. I am frankly sick of watching Israel do some very fucked up things "in retaliation" of the bombings. Why don't they just move their people out of occupied territories and quit fucking with Palestine? Seems like that would be a start. By the way, I am not an anti-Semite, just someone who sees things as they are.

        None of the main stream rags will tell you we are being led to war by a corporate puppet with an 85 IQ either...(that may be inflammatory)

        • by wass (72082) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @08:23PM (#4518263)
          I have to say I agree. I have learned in order to get well-balanced news, you must read the story at several sources and concentrate on the facts that consistently rise to the top.

          I totally agree with you here, it's important to get a variety of viewpoints, on BOTH or ALL sides of the issue. If you don't like Israel, it's at least important to read Israeli news to get their viewpoint, try here [haaretzdaily.com] for a relatively unbiased Israeli news source.

          About 2 years ago (note - before 9/11) I was consistently reading both Western news sources, as well as Israeli and Arab news sources. (Try this [arabicnews.com] for example). But the discrepencies were overwhelming. Comparing to what I consider a mostly unbiased site (BBC), the US and Israeli sources did have biases, but they almost always mentioned the other sides of the issues, and quoted people on the other side (Yes, Israeli papers often quote Palestinians). Recently, I've heard Saudi Arabia being really miffed at aljazeera for interviewing an occasional Israeli every now and then to get the Israeli point of view.

          However, I was both disgusted and horrified at the reporting of the Arab news. If you do find relatively unbiased Arab news site, please let me know. The above site, and also www.arabnews.com, would typically only report crimes committed against Arabs or Muslims, and barely mention similar crimes committed by Muslims. Suicide bombings in Israel and attacks of India's Hindus were not mentioned, although corresponding attacks against Muslims by Israelis or Hindus were reported daily. It really made US news look totally unbiased and factual.

          I am frankly sick of watching Israel do some very fucked up things "in retaliation" of the bombings. Why don't they just move their people out of occupied territories and quit fucking with Palestine? Seems like that would be a start.

          Firstly, I'm a Jew that doesn't think you're an anti-Semite for the views you've expressed.

          Secondly, I agree with Israel responding with too much force for bombings, and not following diplomatic paths to peace instead.

          However, there are several dozen other countries doing things far worse than Israel (Sudan for instance, 2 million dead in ongoing civil war, slavery of black Christians, etc), but nobody seems to give a shit about these atrocities. Why is Israel singled out by nearly all countries for most of the evil going on in the world? I think it's because it provides an easy scapegoat. The problems within the entire Arab League can be blamed on Israel, even 9/11 is being blamed on Israel because bin laden claimed he was fighting for the oppressed Palestinians, etc. Of course there are far more oppressed peoples within the Arab Leaque itself, but since they're not oppressed by Israel their story doesn't make it out (Iraqi Kurds, Sudanese Christians, etc).

          Secondly, you are either too young or have only a short-term memory. Before there was any occupied territories, there was terror, attacks, and outright war launched at the state of Israel. And even before Israel was a country, there was terror and attacks on the Jews living in the land now called Israel/Palestine. I think Israeli's hearts have hardened, after having fallen prey to Russian pogroms, the Holocaust, and centuries of other European anti-semitism. Golda Meir basically summed it up by saying (rougly) "We'd rather have people not be happy with us than be pitied and dead."

          I don't agree with Israel's heavy response to terror, and I don't agree with the occupation. But when people claim that the terror would magically stop when Israel pulls out of the territories, they're disillusional. Hint, hamas and hizbollah do not accept any Jewish state in the region, and only refer to Israel as "the zionist entity". Luckily, most Palestinians don't share these views.

          Finally, people like to criticise Israel and read off a memorized list of some dozen-odd UN security resolutions against Israel. Firstly, nearly all of these have provisions that the Palestinians too must adhere too, which they aren't. So it's BOTH Israel and Palestine in violation. Secondly, the entire Arab League is unilaterally unified against Israel (it was created strictly in opposition to the creation of Israel, but now it seems to be a valid entity), and have a significant block of power at the UN. To a lesser extent, the OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries) is nearly organized against Israel, and this is a block of about 50 votes in the 200-odd votes at the UN. So when people complain about Israel not following UN resolutions, it's important to keep in mind that a good block of the UN is specifically biased against Israel itself.

      • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuelNO@SPAMbcgreen.com> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:22PM (#4516093) Homepage Journal
        I think we're talking things like DECSS/DMCA issues -- supression of decryption/encryption programs and research papers. Also the post-9/11 unwillingness/inability of the press to criticize Bush Jr..
        Remember, as well, the lambasting that Bill Moyer took for his comments on the Hijackers (( and I fully agree with him on that one -- As much as I may disagree with them, I'm not going to call someone who's willing to die for what he believes in a coward.. Misled and stupid, yes.. but not a coward)).

        There were also things like the censorship of anti-WTO protests and protestors in Seattle. The US is far from a fully 'free press' state.

        There is also the issue of 'directed' press... Things like various networks pushing the 'popularity' of sister companies' movies as news or supressing news that might make their parent companies look bad. Many companies have gotten so big that, when they start to push for censorship of the press, it's almost as bad as having the government do so.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:26PM (#4515380)
    We need to censor it now, before it gets out.
  • by Quasar1999 (520073) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:27PM (#4515393) Journal
    Funny, I could swear the only reason we're so low on the list, is we have no real good 'news' to report, other than what happens in the US...
    • Re:Canada is 5th? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Screaming Lunatic (526975) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:33PM (#4515468) Homepage
      It's also surprising, since almost all of the major Canadian newspapers are owned by two people.

      I live in British Columbia. About two years ago the Nisga'a Treaty was being heavily debated within this province and lesser so throughout the country.

      A fair chunk of the newspapers in the interior of British Columbia are owned by one man (I forget his name). And he did not allow any of his editors to write editorials in favour of the Nisga'a Treaty. How is that for freedom of the press.

      The survery claims to asked questions relating to state monopolies. But did they ask about monopolies in general?

    • by FreeUser (11483) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:59PM (#4515807)
      Funny, I could swear the only reason we're so low on the list, is we have no real good 'news' to report, other than what happens in the US...

      You should read Into the Buzzsaw, a series of essays written by pulitzer prize and other award winning journalists on their personal experiences with having their, often very important, stories killed by their own legal goons and corporate headquarters.

      Stories exposing things like increased health risks directly attributable to hormone-modified milk in small children, killed by Fox at the behest of Monsanto (the reporters in question were fired for refusing to lie and present a story favorable to Monsanto, and subsequently won a lawsuite under Florida's Whistleblower Protection laws), and that is by no means the most chilling or disturbing example.

      Frankly, in light of what I know after reading that book, I am surprised we managed to rank 17th. That bodes very, very ill not just for us, but for a goodly portion of the planet even deeper in the pit than we.
      • by aepervius (535155) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:31PM (#4516204)
        Quote : "The poor ranking of the United States (17th) is mainly because of the number of journalists arrested or imprisoned there. Arrests are often because they refuse to reveal their sources in court. Also, since the 11 September attacks, several journalists have been arrested for crossing security lines at some official buildings"

        And I never heard of those arrest. Scarry, isn't it ? Journalist get arrested and nobody heard of it.
    • by Dr Caleb (121505) <thedarkknight AT hushmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:00PM (#4515827) Homepage Journal
      The first four all had the same score.

      What are you talking about, no news? Haven't you noticed that in all major cities, murders are down but the "Hunting Accident" rate is up?

  • by TooCynical (323240) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:27PM (#4515398)
    They don't know how to count...

    >>The situation in especially bad in Asia, which contains the four worst offenders - North Korea, China, Burma, Turkmenistan and Bhutan.

    That is 5 of the worst offenders. :\
  • by Kozz (7764) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:28PM (#4515407)

    In all honesty, I think this is due to

    [censored]

  • by Unknown Poltroon (31628) <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:29PM (#4515408)
    Oh, yeah, nevermind.
  • by Changer2002 (577488) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:29PM (#4515410)
    From the article The poor ranking of the United States (17th) is mainly because of the number of journalists arrested or imprisoned there. Arrests are often because they refuse to reveal their sources in court. Also, since the 11 September attacks, several journalists have been arrested for crossing security lines at some official buildings.

    I'm sorry but if you cross police lines and pose a security risk you most definitely should go to jail. I don't think it unreasonable. As for imprisoning reporters who don't reveal their sources I can see both sides of the issue, but obstructing justice should have a penalty.
    • by Alien Being (18488) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:46PM (#4515650)
      "if you cross police lines..."

      It depends on *where* the lines are. And *who* gets to decide what constitutes a risk.

      The cockpit doors were wide open and the airlines and FAA were too damned stupid to realize that it was a security hole. So now that the cow is out of the barn, we should put armed guards around the chicken coop?

    • by El Camino SS (264212) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:02PM (#4515848)
      It wasn't about crossing a police line. It was getting into a security area. Namely buildings.

      Probably someone didn't have a dang name tag and didn't make the requisite 5 bazillion calls to a government official to get to their office. Now, because people have heard that terrorists posed as a news crew in North Afghanistan, they don't escort you out over clerical errors, they start freaking out, and that freak out might throw your ass in jail.

      I know this sounds ridiculous, but as a journalist in the US, it is nearly impossible to get in touch with a person in the US Govt if they don't contact you first. You sure as hell can't pop by their offices without some rent-a-cop giving you hell about it, or worse. So you see, this listing might not take those factors into account.

      Even something as benign as a grain price advisory board is locked up in some big ass building that makes you feel like you're playing Splinter Cell to just get a call back.

      Here's the scenario, you know someone that hasn't been honest in the gov't. Well, you're screwed. You don't know their home address and they won't return your call. Worst of all, you can't get to their office to even talk to them because they are at the top of the big government building to get a hold of them. The rent-a-cop is calling them as soon as you walk in the door and escorting you out like a criminal even faster. So if you even need to talk to someone in the Gov't at all AND THEY HAVE AN INKLING THAT YOU ARE AFTER THEIR IMPROPRIETY, you're screwed.

      Some days you have to just grow a pair. A lot of journalists do.

      So here is how most of that goes:

      "Hi, Mister Comptroller. I'm from the news, you know, the group that has been calling you for weeks about you stealing from the government. Care to talk about the fact that you have been locking yourself in this office and the grand jur-"

      "Security!!!"

      There is an old news addage (now this is just s humourous statement so clam down people) that says that "if you haven't been thrown in jail, you aren't doing your job right."

      Trust me, its a joke.

  • Misleading. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unicron (20286) <unicron.thcnet@net> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:29PM (#4515412) Homepage
    I wonder if this takes into account private interest groups attempting to censoring, and often succeeding, stories that speak bad of them, a la the scientologist?
    • Re:Misleading. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by issachar (170323) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:37PM (#4515521) Homepage
      the irony is of course that Germany is busy to trying to stomp on the Scientologists as much as they can. Not that I'm against that, I think that the fact that Scientology claims to be a religion and hides behind freedom of religion is a bloody embarassment. For those of you who don't already know, (have you been living in a cave), the truth about Scientology is at Operation Clambake [xenu.net].

      On a separate note, does anyone know how feasible it would be to click on the Scientologist's Google Adword Links [google.com] and cost them some $$$? There must be some way to automate the process. ;) .

  • Sorry (Score:3, Interesting)

    by koh (124962) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:30PM (#4515431) Journal
    Sorry to bother you, but freedom of press in the US has been in jeopardy at least since Kennedy's murder.

    In other news, the US government is about to bomb a country for the second according to oil priorities and economic agendas. Film at 11.

  • Whoop dee doo. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:30PM (#4515433) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    The poor ranking of the United States (17th) is mainly because of the number of journalists arrested or imprisoned there. Arrests are often because they refuse to reveal their sources in court. Also, since the 11 September attacks, several journalists have been arrested for crossing security lines at some official buildings.

    Wow, so the US arrests journalists who, y'know, break the law? Astounding.

    I understand the bit about protecting sources. I even agree with the reporters (in most cases). But jumping security at federal buildings? That's just dumb.

  • by sjonke (457707) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:31PM (#4515441) Journal
    To even out things a bit, please mod down any posts originating from Finland, Iceland, Norway or the Netherlands. Thanks.
  • by garcia (6573) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:31PM (#4515444) Homepage
    The poor ranking of the United States (17th) is mainly because of the number of journalists arrested or imprisoned there. Arrests are often because they refuse to reveal their sources in court. Also, since the 11 September attacks, several journalists have been arrested for crossing security lines at some official buildings.

    Crossing security lines at official buildings is illegal. I don't see how being prosecuted for this is such an important factor in the descision.

    While I feel that reporters should not be prosecuted for refusal to reveal sources, the crossing of SECURE LINES is ridiculous.

    I would also like to point out that the US is in the 10th position as the other countries were tied for their spots.

    Not to say that the US doesn't deserve its rating, just pointing out some things from the article.
    • by Bert Peers (120166) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:08PM (#4515917) Homepage
      Well, here is a simple example of a reporter that is being prosecuted for crossing into secure areas. A few years ago a TV crew wanted to make a point about the extremely bad security at the Belgian national airport. They simply took their camera, started filming and showed how they walked pretty much unharassed from the parking lot up to the nearest plane that was being refueled. If they were carrying a bomb instead of a camera, there might be a problem. If the officials' response is to heavily smack down on the journalists so that nobody would ever dare embarras them again like that, rather than fixing the problem, then the country is clearly worse off.


      Now, I'm not saying that violating security regulations should be a routine matter for journalists, but you seem to imply that there can never be a valid reason for journalists to do so. The above is just one recent example.

  • does it matter? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xzzy (111297) <sether@tru7hMONET.org minus painter> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:34PM (#4515478) Homepage
    If US was somehow ranked number 1 in the list, would that motivate the media at ALL to represent stories in a fair and unbiased perspective? Or would they continue on with their trend of digging up dirt on anyone and everyone in the public eye, all in the name of increasing ratings?

    But instead of course, they'd dig up dirt on more secretive events.

    It'd be like complaining about a carton of sour milk when one has a lactose intolerance..
  • by Danta (2241) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:34PM (#4515484) Homepage
    Finland has the most press freedom in the world. Did you know that Finland is also the country with the least [finland.fi] corruption [ghana.co.uk]? in the world?
  • Ok.. I'm norwegian (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GauteL (29207) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:35PM (#4515499)
    And I'm not totally sure about Norway being that good. For instance, hardcore porn is banned in Norway.

    You will also get a slap on your fingers if you publish and publically distribute racist material. I'm not sure of the limit, but "White Election Alliance" (directly translated from "Hvit valgallianse") a neo-nazi, racist political party got a fine and a slap on their fingers for distributing a policical program that asked for the sterilization of all adopted kids from third world countries.

    I'm generally pretty happy with the freedom here though, but it's not like it is "anything goes".

    We do NOT however ban bad language from public television. If people want to say "fuck", or the norwegian translation "pule" on the air, they are perfectly entitled to do so.
    • by CdotZinger (86269)


      By "freedom of the press," Reporters Without Borders seems to be referring to how easy life is for big-media / international reporters. None of this silly American "free speech for the plebes" stuff counts. Apparently. Can't get to the site to see what their metrics are, but that might explain some of the oddities in the rankings.

    • by nordicfrost (118437) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @06:43PM (#4517494)
      There's a difference in personal freedom and freedom of the press. (And BTW, you are allowed to import HC porn as long as it is not abusive (rape, child porn, zoophilia etc.), but not sell it.)

      The Hvit Valgallianse case was very, very special. The Supreme court was split into two camps;
      1)Allow the statements because it is a political party and they have the freedom to express their political opinions no matter how disgusting they are. Banning the political program from being printed would be an effective ban on the party.
      2)Deny the HV to print the program because it is not only racist, it is directly threating and in breach with the European Human Rights convention.

      The party program was banned accoring to Norwegian civil penal code. I agree to this. Simply because it would limit the freedom and safety of a LARGE group, and violate their personal freedom.

      Anyhoo, the power os the press here are wide. The goverment is actually obligated to assist the press in inquires and give the press effective tools to conduct investigations. One such tool is the postal journal of every goverment office. All that pass in or out of the office must be registered, and the press can access these journals via the net. Effective goverment control.

      Also, we live in a small society. It is clearly more ttransparent than the US, and secrets can't be kept very effectively. Only a few goverment secrets have been sucessfully kept, like the surveilance of left wing radicals in the mid to late last century.

      Furthermore, there is very little corruption in Norway. Largely due to the transparency factor. There's always some, but very little in comparison to similar (western countries). This also ensures that the press is more neutral, as they refuse to bribe persons for stories and deny bribes themselves.

      The media is very independant from the commercial enteties. Examples have been given in this discussion, of media companies hindering their employees in making critical stories due to the outside pressure. This is totally absent here. A journalist student in Great Brittan (a friend and colleauge of mine) said that they were taught the rule of bribery: One day, the editor would approach you and instruct you to write a flattering article about a company or something similar. The teacher that that you then would have to "bite your teeth together and do it, if you want to keep your job".
      This kinda frightened me, because now I can't trust commercial English media again. When I said to him that it would be unheard of to do something like that here, he was kinda surprised but in a positive way.

      Disclaimer: IAALSAAWJIALMC (I am a law student and a working journalist in a large media company).

      Gaute: Ikke sant at det suger når man ser på ZTV, og så er musikkvideoene sensurert? Aargh! ;)

  • Heh, nice censorship (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Geekboy(Wizard) (87906) <spamboxNO@SPAMtheapt.org> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:35PM (#4515504) Homepage Journal
    Reporters without Borders is censored at my work. Nice irony. =)
  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:36PM (#4515516) Journal
    Again, Canada Outranks our neighbours.
    in honour of that, Ill tell a little joke:

    God, speaking to one of his underlings after the creation of the earth is pointing at some of its wonders. God says, "oh, and this is Canada, it will have a democratic and peacefull native people, it will have unequalled natural beauty, Mountains, seashore, Wild places like nowhere else... later, a great nation will be formed there. One of peace, tolerance, dialogue and understanding. They will not make wars with their enemies, they will appeal to man's good nature. They will care and respect one another. These Canadians will have the respect of other great peoples, but be humble and honest -- respectfull and mindfull of the virtue of others.

    to which, God's pion replies "Well, I wonder God, Is it wise bestowing all these great gifts on a single place -- on a single people?"

    God replies "well, its not as simple as it looks, wait until the you see the Assholes I put next to them.

    Badda-Bing, Ill be hear all week, tip your waitress.. try the Lasagna.

    • by distributed.karma (566687) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:45PM (#4515639)
      The problem with Canada is that they could have gotten French cuisine, American technology and English culture. Instead, they ended up with French technology, American culture and English cuisine.

      Ba-Doom Ching!

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:51PM (#4515701) Homepage
      In other news, the independent journalism group Reporters Without Incident announced today that Canada had yet again ranked #1 on a list of nations ordered by inoffensiveness.

      "This recognition is a great honor," Prime Minister Jean Chrtien said in a statement, "but in truth it only confirms what we, as Canadians have always known: That never, in the entire history of our country, have we ever done anything that has caused other nations to pay undue notice or attention.

      "Today, the world has finally recognized that Canada is the nation, above all others, that incites little or no reaction from the rest of the world whatsoever. Today, Canadians everywhere can take pride in their timid, mousy anonymity, assured that their presence on the world political stage bothers nobody."

  • by MemRaven (39601) <.kirk. .at. .kirkwylie.com.> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:43PM (#4515595)
    Since the first couple of posts ranking-wise are full of a lot of "yeah, well, at least we have high freedom of expression" and "yeah, well, at least we're not European" comments, it's pretty clear that those people haven't actually read the article, its methodology, or the explanation as to why the US ranked 17th. Turns out it's because we tend to imprison journalists who refuse to reveal sources, and we've been really aggressive in arresting anybody who crosses security lines post September 11th. Well, that's quite understandable, really. We do arrest journalists who refuse to reveal their sources, since there's a difference of opinion in the US between the journalist community and the legal community about when a journalist is obligated to reveal his sources.

    Furthermore, I'd say that quite a few countries with what appears to be high levels of press freedom to me (such as the United Kingdom and Hong Kong) ended up scoring below the US in any case. This could be a situation where you really don't start to get that bad until you pass like 10 points (the lowest countries are in the 90s on their scale!), which wouldn't happen until level 30. So it doesn't look like it's that horribly anti-US biased, it just looks like it's tracking a number of things that we don't usually look at in terms of press-freedom.

    If anything, the survey is a little flawed because it seems to treat an arrest of a journalist as an arrest of a journalist, regardless of reason. Imagine that I write for a newspaper (let's say it's a revolutionary Maoist newspaper). The fact that I work for that newspaper won't get me thrown in jail in the US. But let's say I go to cover an anti-capitalism parade, and get caught up in the rioting and start throwing molotov cocktails, and get arrested. That arrest is hardly equivalent to someone getting arrested just for writing in the Maoist newspaper to begin with. I suppose the trouble is that it's very difficult, in dealing with 140 countries, to say "that arrest was political" and "this arrest was because of a legitimate journalist stance" and "the other arrest was unrelated to journalist activities," so you have to just lump everything together under the question of "how likely do you feel you are to get arrested?" Well, a number of journalists in the US apparently feel like that's possible given our laws on revealing sources, so there you go.

  • by mao che minh (611166) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:45PM (#4515625) Journal
    I was unable to bring up the article in question, but what restrictions do we (I live in the United States) have in regard to our media? Are our anti-defamation laws or restrictions against attacking one's character the cause for our 17th place finish? Maybe it's because I have never worked in any job even remotely related to journalism, but I cannot summon up any examples of censorship in our media, persay. When it comes to our television, music, and movies, then yes, we are censored quite a bit.
  • Pseudo-Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by dgmartin98 (576409) <slashdotusername ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:45PM (#4515629)
    The server is awfully slow, especially with the big graphic on it. Here's the almost-full article:
    ---
    The index

    Rank Country Note
    1 Finland 0,50
    - Iceland 0,50
    - Norway 0,50
    - Netherlands 0,50
    5 Canada 0,75
    6 Ireland 1,00
    7 Germany 1,50
    - Portugal 1,50
    - Sweden 1,50
    10 Denmark 3,00
    11 France 3,25
    12 Australia 3,50
    - Belgium 3,50
    14 Slovenia 4,00
    15 Costa Rica 4,25
    - Switzerland 4,25
    17 United States 4,75
    18 Hong Kong 4,83
    19 Greece 5,00
    20 Ecuador 5,50
    21 Benin 6,00
    - United Kingdom 6,00
    - Uruguay 6,00
    24 Chili 6,50
    - Hungary 6,50
    26 South Africa 7,50
    - Austria 7,50
    - Japan 7,50
    29 Spain 7,75
    ---truncated due to lameness filter---
    130 Irak 79,00
    131 Viet Nam 81,25
    132 Eritrea 83,67
    133 Laos 89,00
    134 Cuba 90,25
    135 Bhutan 90,75
    136 Turkmenistan 91,50
    137 Burma 96,83
    138 China 97,00
    139 North Korea 97,50

    --

    Reporters Without Borders is publishing the first worldwide press freedom index

    The first worldwide index of press freedom has some surprises for Western democracies. The United States ranks below Costa Rica and Italy scores lower than Benin. The five countries with least press freedom are North Korea, China, Burma, Turkmenistan and Bhutan.

    Surprises among Western democracies : US below Costa Rica and Italy below Benin

    Reporters Without Borders is publishing for the first time a worldwide index of countries according to their respect for press freedom. It also shows that such freedom is under threat everywhere, with the 20 bottom-ranked countries drawn from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. The situation in especially bad in Asia, which contains the four worst offenders - North Korea, China, Burma, Turkmenistan and Bhutan.

    The top end of the list shows that rich countries have no monopoly of press freedom. Costa and Benin are examples of how growth of a free press does not just depend on a country's material prosperity.

    The index was drawn up by asking journalists, researchers and legal experts to answer 50 questions about the whole range of press freedom violations (such as murders or arrests of journalists, censorship, pressure, state monopolies in various fields, punishment of press law offences and regulation of the media). The final list includes 139 countries. The others were not included in the absence of reliable information.

    In the worst-ranked countries, press freedom is a dead letter and independent newspapers do not exist. The only voice heard is of media tightly controlled or monitored by the government. The very few independent journalists are constantly harassed, imprisoned or forced into exile by the authorities. The foreign media is banned or allowed in very small doses, always closely monitored.

    Right at the top of the list four countries share first place - Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands. These northern European states scrupulously respect press freedom in their own countries but also speak up for it elsewhere, for example recently in Eritrea and Zimbabwe. The highest-scoring country outside Europe is Canada, which comes fifth.

    Some countries with democratically-elected governments are way down in the index - such as Colombia (114th) and Bangladesh (118th). In these countries, armed rebel movements, militias or political parties constantly endanger the lives of journalists. The state fails to do all it could to protect them and fight the immunity very often enjoyed by those responsible for such violence.

    Costa Rica better placed than the United States

    The poor ranking of the United States (17th) is mainly because of the number of journalists arrested or imprisoned there. Arrests are often because they refuse to reveal their sources in court. Also, since the 11 September attacks, several journalists have been arrested for crossing security lines at some official buildings.

    The highest-ranked country of the South is Costa Rica, in 15th position. This Central American nation is traditionally the continent's best performer in terms of press freedom. In February 2002, it ceased to be one of the 17 Latin American states that still give prison sentences to those found guilty of "insulting" public officials. The murder in July 2001 year of journalist Parmenio Medina was an exception in the history of the Costa Rican media.

    Cuba, the last dictatorship in Latin America, came 134th and is the only country in the region where there is no diversity of news and journalists are routinely imprisoned. In Haiti (106th), journalists are targeted by informal militias whose actions are covered by the government.

    Italy gets bad marks in Europe

    The 15 member-countries of the European Union (EU) all score well except for Italy (40th), where news diversity is under serious threat. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is turning up the pressure on the state-owned television stations, has named his henchmen to help run them and continues to combine his job as head of government with being boss of a privately-owned media group. The imprisonment of journalist Stefano Surace, convicted of press offences from 30 years ago, as well as the monitoring of journalists, searches, unjustified legal summonses and confiscation of equipment, are all responsible for the country's low ranking.

    France, in 11th place overall, comes only 8th among EU countries because of several disturbing measures endangering the protection of journalists' sources and because of police interrogation of a number of journalists in recent months.

    Among those states hoping to join the EU, Turkey (99th) is very poorly placed. Despite the reform efforts of its government, aimed at easing entry into the EU, many journalists are still being given prison sentences and the media is regularly censored. Press freedom is especially under siege in the southeastern part of the country.

    Elsewhere in Europe, such as Belarus (124th), Russia (121st) and the former Soviet republics, it is still difficult to work as a journalist and several have been murdered or imprisoned. Grigory Pasko, jailed since December 2001 in the Vladivostok region of Russia, was given a four-year sentence for publishing pictures of the Russian Navy pouring liquid radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan.

    The Middle East and Israel's ambivalent position

    No Arab country is among the top 50. Lebanon only makes 56th place and the press freedom situation in the region is not encouraging. In Iraq (130th) and Syria (126th), the state uses every means to control the media and stifle any dissenting voice. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein especially has set his country's media the sole task of relaying his regime's propaganda. In Libya (129th) and Tunisia (128th), no criticism of Col Muammar Kadhafi or President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali is tolerated.

    The political weakening of the Palestinian Authority (82nd) means it has made few assaults on press freedom. However, Islamic fundamentalist opposition media have been closed, several attempts made to intimidate and attack local and foreign journalists and many subjects remain taboo. The aim is to convey a united image of the Palestinian people and to conceal aspects such a demonstrations of support for attacks on Israel.

    The attitude of Israel (92nd) towards press freedom is ambivalent. Despite strong pressure on state-owned TV and radio, the government respects the local media's freedom of expression. However, in the West Bank and Gaza, Reporters Without Borders has recorded a large number of violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees press freedom and which Israel has signed. Since the start of the Israeli army's incursions into Palestinian towns and cities in March 2002, very many journalists have been roughed up, threatened, arrested, banned from moving around, targeted by gunfire, wounded or injured, had their press cards withdrawn or been deported.

    Good and bad examples in Africa

    Eritrea (132nd) and Zimbabwe (122nd) are the most repressive countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The entire privately-owned press in Eritrea was banned by the government in September 2001 and 18 journalists are currently imprisoned there. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is notable for his especially harsh attitude to the foreign and opposition media.

    At the other end of the spectrum, Benin is in 21st place despite being classified by the UN Development Programme as one of the world 15 poorest countries. Other African states, such as South Africa (26th), Mali (43rd), Namibia (31st) and Senegal (47th), have genuine press freedom too.

  • by LinuxWoman (127092) <damschler@mEEEai ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:45PM (#4515635)
    Journalists try to print articles and get sued for liabel (for printing what they researched) or get sued for revealing corporate secrets (since when is uncovering fraud or embezzelment revealing corporate secrets?) or they end up in jail for treading to close to what the government decides is "sensitive materials".

    Even when they do successfully run a story, notice how the story is presented by the same slant from almost all media sources. What good does that do us?

    My Russian Professor in college used to regularly speak about how here we pretended to have freedom but had none while in the Soviet Union they had very little freedom but what there was was all REAL freedom. I've heard very similar comments from immigrants from countries noted for their "human rights violations". Clearly there's a need to closely examine things here in the U.S.
    • and ... (Score:5, Funny)

      by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:50PM (#4515685)

      My Russian Professor in college used to regularly speak about how here we pretended to have freedom but had none while in the Soviet Union they had very little freedom but what there was was all REAL freedom. I've heard very similar comments from immigrants from countries noted for their "human rights violations". Clearly there's a need to closely examine things here in the U.S.

      Um, and he was here, right?

      What, do I really need to spell it out for you?

      I once endured a "Contemporary American Society" class taught by an Iranian immigrant, about how awful the U.S. was. I notice he was here too ...

  • English/ BBC Version (Score:4, Informative)

    by aengblom (123492) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:48PM (#4515661) Homepage

    It's also at At the BBC BBC [bbc.co.uk]
    (Where it's not slashdotted)

  • As an American, I find it absolutely stunning that XXXXX X XXXX XXXXXXX XXX XXXXXXXXXX XX X XXXX XXXXXXX XXX XXXX!

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  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:52PM (#4515714) Homepage

    This report isn't really unexpected. The reasons are fairly obvious.

    The public in the US is mainly educated in political matters by the press, especially cable media. Alternatives to the cable giants, ala BBC are not readily available. The cable media are owned by mega-corporations. It's no surprise that these corporations are interested in preserving their power through economic and political means.

    Because money is the main concern, their agenda tends to be a conservative one. Hence they will:

    • Help to accelerate the destruction of the public education system since an educated populace might not be interested in sensationalized reporting skewed towards a conservative viewpoint.
    • Help to ensure that politicians are elected that are sympathetic to their viewpoint. This is accomplished through a combination of biased reporting, emphasizing the faults of political opponents, and prolifieration of punditry disguised as journalism.
    • Self sensorship, and support of governement or corporate sensorship, to maintain a favorable political atmosphere.
    • Monitary support of politicians as a means of encouraging support for the corporate political agenda.

    The corporate media own american politics. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:52PM (#4515717)
    When Lebanon, a country with state controlled press, where a French reporter was nearly lynched at a conference in Beruit for the "crime" of having covered stories about Israel link [globeandmail.com](while in France) ranks in the 50's, the Palestinian Authority (where reporters are granted access based on their support of the "Palestinian narrative" and threatened with injury and death if they don't) can "score" better than Israel, a democracy.

    Sometimes the self-proclaimed allies of freedom can be be freedom's worst enemies.
  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:53PM (#4515735)
    but got the following from my web browser:

    You have requested a site that has been blocked. If this site is needed for business reasons please contact the Helpdesk at ext. 5400.


    Oh well...I guess all is well. :-)
  • A short analysis (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SEE (7681) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:57PM (#4515780) Homepage
    Canada (#5), recently detained a shipment of pamphlets entiled "In Moral Defense of Israel", to examine them if their content was such that they could be legally imported. The French just tried (and acquitted, true) a man for being uncomplimentary to Islam. And Costa Rica (#15) only "ceased to . . . give prison sentences to those found guilty of 'insulting' public officials" eight months ago.

    If we then read why the U.S. is ranked low (not allowing those with knowledge of a crime hide that knowledge even if they are "legitimate reporters", and not allowing people to go behind security lines even if they are "legitimate reporters"), it becomes obvious that what this site means by "freedom of the press" is not freedom of publication (which is the meaning of freedom of the press as used in international human rights treaties), but rather how far the society caters to members of the Fourth Estate.
  • Corporate censorship (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Beebos (564067) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:58PM (#4515794)
    I haven't been able to read the article since it has been slashdotted, but one thing that increasingly bothers me is how the major news organizations are owned by a small number of large corporations. These corporations in turn have a greater say on how we are governed through campaign donations.

    I heard that Disney is considering a buyout of AOL/Time Warner. It would then own ABC, CNN, Time Warner and AOL. Imagine that!

    Coroporate news outlets are and will be stymied when trying to report things that powerful corporations don't want reported and that's a lot of things.

    This combined with the growing power of the very rich means less and less democracy. :-(.

    See the NY Times Magazine cover story from this Sunday about who the rich are taking over;

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/20/magazine/20INE QU ALITY.html
  • by lenshead (215106) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @03:59PM (#4515821)
    My wife and I are British, but lived in Boston, Mass for a few years during the mid eighties. We live in Canada, these days.

    When we first arrived there, we thought the news reporting was very narrow so we purchased an HF radio, to listen to the BBC World Service. In those days, the BBC operated a very good news service. It has been reigned in a lot since -- they made the mistake of annoying Margaret Thatcher.

    One evening, we heard a report on the BBC about a Bankers conference on the US West Coast. The report contained excepts from a talk given by the (then) chairman of the FDIC and contained pretty strong material. Essentially, he claimed that US banks had over extended themselves with too many bad loans for the FDIC to be able to salvage the situation.

    I thought this news would be a major talking point the following day; it wasn't -- no one had heard it. As far as I could tell, in discussions with my co-workers, this news was not available on any outlets generally available to people in Boston. Several of my US friends from that time then went out and bought HF radios.

    To this day, I don't know why the FDIC chairman's speech was not reported in the Boston area. Maybe the editors thought the Red Sox were more important than a major bank failure. Perhaps they simply dismissed it as "West Coast" news and therefore unimportant. Maybe the TV stations and local papers did not want to spook the advertisers -- who knows? In any event, the experience was an education.
  • Curious... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wls (95790) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:03PM (#4515859) Homepage
    So what exactly makes our Freedom of the Press that limited?

    My suspicion is not so much that press is limited, or that information is censured, but rather the bias in the distribution.

    Take books; these are fairly conservative in nature. Liberal view points don't sell as many books as conservative view points do. Take telvision and radio; these are fairly liberal in nature. Conservative view points aren't expressed as readily as liberal view points are.

    The problem stems from the fact that each group views itself as the normal. That is, liberals don't think they're THAT liberal. Conservatives don't think they're THAT conservative. So, to be "fair", they extend a little to the left, and a little to the right when reporting.

    On a normalized scale, this means we really _are_ getting biased data. For instance, when a Republican is in office, we have a homeless problem. When a Democrat is in office, we don't have a homeless problem. Given the number of homeless stays the same, what's changed -- that's right, what gets reported. Suitable examples exist for the other direction.

    So, my bet is that it's the selection of the news that gets printed, rather than the prevention of printing news.
  • by IdleTime (561841) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:44PM (#4516374) Journal
    I really don't understand why all the US based people commenting here is so upset.

    I currently live in the US and comes originally from one of the 1st place countires. My personal experience is that the papers in these countries are more diversified, they write about more interssting topics, they don't censor as much, the are more controversial, the are MUCH more in-depth than their US counterparts.

    This does not only hold water when it comes to reporters, but on almost all areas in life. Unfortunately, US citizens have been "thaught" that US is the best place in the world to live, have the most freedoms, etc. But that is really not the thruth.

    What about all the beeps and blurs on TV? You can't say any of "The Seven Words" on radio or TV, neither can you show nudity without a blur. Now that is censorship to me!

    And as a comment to the arrest of the reporters that crossed the security lines, why not just escort them to the other side? The US police has a sexual fixation on arresting people. I don't think there is any other country in the world where the police arrest as menay people as in the US for the most ridicoulus reasons. It's liek I sometimes are convinced that the get a bonus for arresting the most every week or so!
  • by Iamthefallen (523816) <Gmail name: Iamthefallen> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @04:46PM (#4516396) Homepage Journal

    Why do american "patriots" so often feel the need to blindly defend the U.S? Saying that the marks are irrlevant, that the european press is more evil and not free at all, and it's some damn liberal plot again.

    I thought that patriotism meant love for ones country, not for ones goverment, I thought a patriot of a democracy was supposed to always question anything that might infringe on his freedom or that of others. But it seems that whenever an article like this is seen in the news, the american "patriots" refuse to question their goverment or their nations policy, instead they stand up behind it no matter what and dismiss the criticism as some foreigners and/or liberals having their panties in a bunch.

    This is I believe, the opposite of what the founders of the US would have wanted. The US is not the greatest nation on earth simply because patriots say so, even if they yell it from the rooftops or chant it every chance they get. If the US is the greatest nation it is because it allows people freedom, they have freedom to question their goverment and its actions among other things, but it seems that the more patriotic an american is the less they feel a need to question anything. That apathy and contentment is a real danger to democracy, because it means no one is protecting the democratic rights.

  • Irony (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DarkHelmet (120004) <<mark> <at> <seventhcycle.net>> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @05:11PM (#4516641) Homepage
    Isn't it ironic that countries that countries like Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands AREN'T trying to overthrow small governments in the name of freedom.

    Maybe the United States should fix itself first before going after the supposed rights of others.

  • US freedom of press (Score:5, Informative)

    by raptor21 (47540) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @06:58PM (#4517624)
    There is a lot of criticizim about the ranking many of them are relevant points. But to talk about the freedom of press in the US. A few months ago it became glaringly obvious to me how narrow minded and conservative the US press really is.

    One incident in recent times, There were large protests against Bush's war on terror in San Francisco and New York with 20,000+ protestors each a few weekends ago. There was a 400,000 person protest in england with many many important people speaking thier minds against the war at each of these events. Not one word about this was mentioned in any of the mainstream US media. Tim Robbins (actor) spoke out against the war in the New York protest and he didn't get any coverage. Where as CNN covered Spielberg and Tom Curise who were pro-war.

    I it is hilarious when the name of a cat rescued by a firefighter is mentioned on CNN but the name of a person who pulled out three people to safety from a minivan that crashed into the ocean is unmentioned.

    Why a a cat rescue is news worthy? Why do events from the rest of the world hardly ever get a mention? It seems as if there is nothing happening in the rest of the world when you live in the US. A major train collison in say China/ India is less newsworthy than a cat stuck in a tree!!!!

    I have lived in the middle east in Kuwait and oman. We used to get BBC world and CNN in Oman. It is very blatantly obvious how sensationalized and ridiculous the news is in the US. Even countries that are placed lowest on the list have a news around the world section. I live in the US for the past 6 years.

    Most Americans are ignorant about the rest of the world. It is very evident in the colleges of this country where time and again I have been asked stupid and ignorant questions about India and the Middle East by so called educated people.
  • by Nice2Cats (557310) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @07:09PM (#4517718)
    The U.S. tends to do stuff a lot differently than other republics, and this is one of the cases where it really shows. The two important points in this case are a) the distinction between "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press", and b) the legal system. I'm going to use Germany as an example because it is the European country I know best, but it should basically apply to the other parliamentary democracies like Sweden and Denmark as well.

    As some of the posters here have shown quite clearly, Americans tend to confuse an individual's freedom of speech (me and my soapbox) and the freedom of the press (what CNN is allowed to do). This is understandable, since (to simplify it) they have the same legal grounding the Constitution. However, this is not the way most other democracies do things. Germany, for instance, learned about the power of the press the hard way under the Nazi propaganda machine, and therefore distinguishes between Meinungsfreiheit (freedom of speech) and Pressefreiheit (freedom of the press). The press in Germany is considered the "fourth estate" and as such is integrated into the system of checks and balances with special rights and obligations (!). German law also tries to take into account that the media is a multi-million-dollar industry that sometimes tends to try make money first and hunt for the truth later.

    So the American posters here who are going "yeah, but you're not allowed to say there wasn't a Holocaust in Germany" are perfectly right, but they are also completely missing the point. That is a question of freedom of speech, not freedom of the press, which is what this study was about. The German press reports all the time about people running around saying there was no Holocaust, and there is not a damn thing anybody can do about it.

    This system also gets rid of most of the gripes about the trashy press in the U.S. presented here: The German press has duties as well as rights. For example, you can be sued for Verletzung der journalistischen Sorgfaltspflicht, which could be translated as "journalistic negligence". If you say A did X, you have to prove you really, really tried to get A's own version. Then there are a whole host of privacy laws that are considered a basic right in Europe and are designed to protect the public from the press, a very alien concept to Americans, who are told that the press is protecting democracy when it is broadcasting the photo, place of residence and full name of a four-year-old rape victim.

    The second part is that the rest of the democratic world considers the freedom of the press such a very basic and important right that is dealt with at a federal level in federal laws that apply to everybody in the country. So when some American judge in Somewhere, Ohio decides that a journalist has to give up his sources in a murder trial, while a different judge in Somewhere Else, New York in a similar case says he doesn't, this shocks Europeans who have this humanistic belief that the law should treat all people equally, especially when we're talking about basic freedoms.

    Americans, on the other hand, don't have a federal law book, and are furthermore stuck with a legal system that never made it past the 18th Century. Trial-by-jury is something that the rest of the free world thinks is only a minor improvement on using a lottery or chicken guts to decide who is guilty. It does not bother Americans that a court in one state or even town will interpret your basic rights differently than another judge a few miles down the road, since they have been told that this is the way it has to be. To the rest of the democratic world, this is as unbelievable as, say, not being able to count your ballots correctly in a federal election.

    So basically the study is only examining the different degrees of freedom of the press in different countries, nothing more and nothing less. And by that measure, the U.S. in fact does not deserve a top spot, because the enemies of the press (who at times include the press itself) can and do use the legal uncertainty inherent in the American system against journalists. The question of banning "The Story of O" in Germany or IRA literature in Britain does not enter into it, as valid as these questions would be in discussion of freedom of speech.

  • by Simplulo (250142) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @07:35PM (#4517942) Homepage
    In time of war, the government assumes extraordinary powers, temporarily restricting the rights of the people in order to save them from a greater imminent threat to those same rights. It is no coincidence that the US Government has chosen the terminology of war to pursue its recent goals. We have now a War on
    -Poverty
    -Crime
    -Drugs
    -Terrorism

    The beauty (if you happen to be inside the government monopoloy) of a war on an abstract concept is that the concept never surrenders and the war never ends, so the temporary extra powers become permanent, and eventually taken for granted.

    Any erosion in press freedom (or press access to government officials) is part of a larger context of increasing government size and power, and reciprocally eroding human rights. This sort of report is the equivalent of an annoying fly biting the sheeple; they will quickly go back to grazing.

    Those who are concerned should review their Constitution and Bill of Rights:
    http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/bill ofrights. php
    http://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/charters _of_f reedom/constitution/constitution_transcription.htm l
    and check them for erosion. Those who are really concerned should join the Free State Project:
    http://www.FreeStateProject.org

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

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