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US Plunges To 46th In World Press Freedom Index 357

schwit1 writes "Reporters Without Borders puts out their Press Freedom Index every year, and the 2014 ranking came out today. It was not a good showing for the U.S. Specifically, the U.S. registered one of the steepest falls of all nations, down 13 slots to the #46 position, just above Haiti and just below Romania."
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US Plunges To 46th In World Press Freedom Index

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  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @02:51PM (#46269137) Homepage

    Free nation! Under God! Best thing since apple pie.

    The US has really fallen from its optimistic condition so many decades ago. And that failure is not the worst thing about it. It's the fact that no one in the US seems to care.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17, 2014 @02:58PM (#46269205)

      The do care. They want the government to arrest the journalists that reported this.

    • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:18PM (#46269391)

      They do care but between trying to financially keep their heads above water and fighting off the urge to watch Duck Dynasty they have little time to enact change.

      Well that was sarcasm but life is so busy that things like government tyranny fall by the wayside. Our lives are just comfortable and busy enough to allow us to ignore the greater issues at hand. Ask a person today what their concerns are and I bet its going to be things like job security, getting a better job to make more money or keeping their head above water. Government tyranny is just low enough to let us not care. Then throw in the incentive for social problems and you have the foundation for a pacifying system to keep people just above poverty and starving so they do revolt.

    • by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:25PM (#46269465)

      The US, land of the free! (*)

      (*) applies iff you are the CEO of a MegaCorp.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:29PM (#46269505)
      A good number of Americans think we need to give up rights to fight cultists with box-cutters and pipe bombs, rights we didn't need to give up in the face of real national security threats. But I don't think that's the whole story here. The cold war was going on, our enemies ACTUALLY had real weapons worth considering, Nixon resigned.

      I suspect one issue is the economy, and the other is a changing media. Democracies can't really function when too many people are too financially stressed, it fits that people wouldn't take threats to the freedom of the press as seriously if they're worried about losing the house. Most of the people with brains or who care have stopped watching cable news and newspapers are dying, so the audiences for the media are dumber and more easily controlled.

      I'm not as convinced as many people are that the sky is falling, so I suspect the economy will eventually improve. I also suspect that when the change in media matures, perhaps when kids who now get their news online start being less apathetic, and when the fox news crowd dies, that we -might- demand better.

      TLDR: I think it's more complicated than everyone collectively saying "Fuck it, I don't care about democracy, I'm going to go tweet something."
      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @05:37PM (#46270599)

        There's no need to suppress press. The US found that out long ago.

        People want to see war pics. So they only "invite" you to report if you report favorably. If you'd consider reporting something that conflicts with the "good guy" image, you're not going to get support by the powers that are. You will not be able to show those great, ratings-boosting clips where our boys kick some serious enemy ass with futuristic weapons.

        It's just so win-win. If you comply, you will have great pics that not only boost the US image but also your ratings. If you dare to oppose, your news will be boring, which makes your ratings drop, which also has the "nice" side effect that fewer people are going to hear it.

      • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @05:42PM (#46270651)

        I'm not as convinced as many people are that the sky is falling, so I suspect the economy will eventually improve.

        The thing that all the knee jerk poster here seemed to miss is that this is the first year on a totally different survey methodology.

        Reporters Sans Borders (RSF) totally tossed out their prior methodology and went with a new questionnaire: []
        Since this isn't the only source of input, you have to read also their methodology []
        which includes things never before even considered. It turns out that most of the qualitative measurements are done by RSF people themselves, rather than from input from these people in the field.

        Quantitative questions about the number of violations of different kinds are
        handled by our staff. They include the number of journalists, media assistants and netizens who
        were jailed or killed in the connection with their activities,

        So "netizens" are who exactly?
        And why does that matter? Well, since they don't define it, we have to assume that anyone releasing information
        over the internet counts as a netizen. So one Bradley Manning (35 year sentence) can account for 90% of the "Violence against reporters/netizens) score.
        North Korea, not having any Netizens, presumably gets a perfect score in this regard. I suggest the whole thing is hopelessly biased.

        As with any newly invented scale, you have to give it a few years for the truth (and the bias) to come out.

        • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @02:46AM (#46273865)

          Well since much of the "news" is from recycled AP reports -- the "Netizens" like Bradley Manning are releasing information that might have come from someone labelled a "Journalist" a few decades ago.

          Now it's pay for play access and reporters and politicians want to go to the same parties after work is done.

          We even get our news on Slashdot these days -- are there reporters here?

          So yes, arresting Bradley Manning, and going after the founder of Wikileaks in my book is suppressing freedom of the press -- the REAL press, not the advertiser driven gossip columns.

          • by icebike ( 68054 )

            Well yes, I agree that might be what the thinking is, but I that would require this "journalist" organization to have accepted into their private club any one with a computer and access to documents. This seems unlikely, except in the contest of screaming press freedom.

            Manning was a soldier, and he was not a journalist. Im not sure even journalist would welcome him in their ranks for the simple act of betrayal of his oath as a soldier.

    • Kazakhstan greatest country in the world all other countrys are run by little girls.
      Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium!
      Other countries have inferior potassium.

      Kazakhstan is 161 on the list. Try harder next year Americans.
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:40PM (#46269639)

      We can't have Land of the Free OR Home of the brave.

      Because we are afraid of everything, we have elected to give up our freedom in trade of safety.

      After 9/11 there was little talk about this attacks being the price we may pay to live in a free society, and more talks about how to stop it again. Then we complained how these people were even allowed on the plane before, because of lack of proper intelligence.

      After the Boston Marathon Bombing, citizens gladly sacrificed their freedom and locked themselves at home until the bomber was caught. Then we complained left and right how we could have let these minor hints get us by and let these people back into the us.

      We Cannot live in a free society when we are afraid of the bad man getting us. To live in a free society we need to stand up and face these problems even if it means our death.

      • I don't think gladness was ever the message behind the lock-downs. Nearly everything portrayed was viewed as a hostile over-reaction by the government. But then again, that's my own lens I am viewing this through. But I can't recall hearing anyone saying "Thank god the police came and locked everything down and started busting in our doors trying to find this guy!"

        And we don't even need to talk about the giant holes in the whole narrative either.

    • by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @04:08PM (#46269843)
      The list is bogus.I would love to see what happens to a journalist that says politically incorrect stuff, like racist or anti-gay rants, in the top countries of this list. He would "only" be foired and sued if he was lucky, and arrested in the worse case scenario.

      Freedom to say only what people consider nice and acceptable is no freedom at all. Any country that has "hate speech" laws has no grounds to criticize US lack of free speech.
      • First of all, no country criticized US of anything; Reporters Without Borders is an NGO. Also, the list is on their website without any real commentary on the rankings, just a few notes mainly on the top and bottom scorers (US ain't one of them).

        Second, just because you seem to have absolutely no idea about how the rest of the world functions, let me fill you in: In Europe, suing people in general is considered a complete waste of time and money, not to mention suing somebody about his opinion, that is stra

    • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @04:29PM (#46270015)

      The headline should have been "US 'Plunges' to Where It Was Two Years Ago", since that's all that's happened here []. The author of that article even calls himself out for falling prey to the temptation of link-baiting, since he wrote about the loss of freedoms back in 2012 when the numbers were the exact same as they are now. This time around, he questioned how the numbers could be the same as two years ago, so he looked at where the numbers were coming from and poked all sorts of holes in them instead.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When all the news source belong to big corporations, how can one be surprised that press freedom is disappearing ?

    One solution []

    • by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:46PM (#46269697)

      We need to turn our fake democracy into a real one, where our voice is actually being listened to.
      And I believe us "nerds" can actually make this happen.

      What we need is a moderated forum (perhaps like Slashdot) integrated into congress, and MCs being required to spend at least X hours per day on this forum answering questions. The moderation system has to be designed by academics, such that the system prevents abuse and unjustified censoring by design.

      Also, we need a better voting system (since uneducated people ruin democracy, e.g., by being susceptible to populist sentiment).
      Perhaps something along the lines of PageRank, where each voter selects N random people he/she trusts, and from the gigantic graph that results we can derive mathematically the outcome of the election. Of course, here also academics are needed to design the system and prevent abuse.

      • I'd fear that certain population groups would not be represented well. Yes, they ain't represented now either, but I'd want a better model, not just one where we're shifting the "ruling class" about and leave others out in the cold.

  • by Albert Schueller ( 143949 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:01PM (#46269227) Homepage

    It's too bad that the /. editor that posted this didn't dig into this shoddy piece of journalism before posting. You can read more about how arbitrary this "ranking" is at On The Media [] and then move along, there's nothing to see here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No! US Press still free, comrades! As proof of this, I link to US Government-funded journalism!

      You do realize you linked to a story produced with funding from the US government, right? Of course they're going to say everything is fine. They're paid to.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Have you ever listened to On The Media? They spend half their time bemoaning the government, pointing out the dire actions of the government. This actual piece is an interview with the Washington Post's foreign affairs blogger. The blogger examines the actual numbers behind the headlines. Try listening to it and then make your own judgement, or review Max Fisher's original blog that the program was based on.
    • So, press freedom in the US isn't really so bad, because the US has sometimes ranked higher? Even though it has never ranked above rank 20 or so? Is place 20 something to be pround of for the "land of the free"?

      Read the report. It's not only about government abuse, which is bad enough, but also includes other factors. "Self-censorship" is a big one, for example, because of factors like "political correctness" (can't criticize minorities, don't dare offend the Christian right, etc.) and fear of lawsuits. How

  • by Yohahn ( 8680 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:04PM (#46269253)

    Think for yourself, but have a look here [].

    Their statistics suck, even if their principles are sound.

    • The Washington Post is "suspicious" of a report slamming the Obama Administration's thuggish treatment of the press? Color me shocked. Let's see if the New York Times follows suit . . . after all, Holder went after one of their own [].
    • Their point with the US was that journalists are not directly targetted, unlike most other countries, including nominal democracies like Russia and Brazil, where they are flat-out murdered, but their sources are targetted, including things like spying on the AP's phone call list and ultra-long jail sentences for whistleblowers.

    • by Chan Jav ( 67520 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:21PM (#46269425)

      Think for yourself, but have a look here [].

      Their statistics suck, even if their principles are sound.

      Let us look at the last few years worth of rankings
      2002 17th
      2003 31st
      2004 22nd
      2005 44th
      2006 53rd
      2007 48th
      2008 36th
      2009 20th
      2010 20th
      2011-12 47th
      2013 32nd
      2014 46th

      Seems like a yo-yo, maybe this index is more about creating headlines than true measure. Please do reference the On The Media story linked above.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:18PM (#46269383) Homepage Journal

    but this is just a rank based on a number calculated according to an arbitrary weighting of factors. It is possible that the rank drop of the US might have been less had the factors used in calculating the score been weighted differently, or the cases used to arrive at the score been characterized somewhat differently.

    For example, the score weights "Pluralism" twice as much as "self-censorship" and four times as much as "transparency". Why? Can such things be weighted precisely at all?

    The scores for these factors are likewise arbitrarily scaled numbers in the range 0-100. The ranking of each country is a linear combination of non-parametric factors; as such the rank on such a score is so arbitrary as to be practically meaningless, or at best very imprecise.

    I think such a score might have some value in comparing a country's performance to its prior performance, or even to compare progress made in one country vs. another -- provided it is taken with a large grain of salt. But the nature of the score is such that very little can be inferred about country A vs. country B based on their relative ranks.

    As a liberal geek I'm all up for harsh criticism of America as a nascent plutocracy, but this particular story is just manufactured controversy.

    • but this is just a rank based on a number calculated according to an arbitrary weighting of factors..

      Isn't that how "Stack Ranking" of employees would be defined?

  • haven't you ever spent time going over product reviews loaded with benchmark charts? small variations mean very little, but when there are closely spaced items, it can really mix up the rankings. Learn some math, people!

  • by abies ( 607076 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:32PM (#46269535)

    I was quite puzzled to see a country with lower Freedom index that North Korea. The gap is quite large (82 versus 85 points of 'non-freedom'). Even if they have described the method used (and misnamed it 'methodology', but thats separate story), they don't give detailed per-country factors, so it is not possible to understand _why_ given country is lower or higher in the ranking.

    Actually, after reading further, it is based on _questionaire_. It might just mean that Eritrean citizens are allowed to complain about their country more than NK ones... or that NK data is based on imagination of journalists as opposed to interviews with ones which escaped from Eritrea.

    • Eritrea is really fucked up though. You just don't hear much about them in the western press.

  • by hendrips ( 2722525 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:35PM (#46269565)

    According to this article [], there are plenty of reasons to doubt these rankings, even if press freedom in the U.S. is worrying. And ranking changes like these are not new. Here are the U.S.' rankings over the last 10 years (there's a typo in their own press release, the U.S. actually fell 14 slots):

    2004: 22
    2005: 44
    2006: 53
    2007: 48
    2008: 36
    2009: 20
    2010: 20
    2011: 47
    2012: 27
    2013: 32
    2014: 46

    That seems...a bit inconsistent. Again, that's not to say there isn't plenty to worry about in the U.S., but I'd still take these rankings with a grain of salt.

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      Rankings tend to be event based, so in a year that a certain country does something particularly egregious it can drop a bunch of ranks. This year the US's drop in rank is probably related to Snowden. So yes, it's inconsistent but that doesn't mean that it's arbitrary.
  • Questionnaire respondents are probably confusing Freedom of the Press with whatever headline is hot the week of the survey.
  • Don't hold your breath waiting to hear any of this on your Evening Corporate News.
  • wget []
    cat index2.csv|awk -F ";" '{print $3" "$2}'|sort -n

  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @04:14PM (#46269889)

    Not that I'm totally happy with the situation, but I wonder if this story is a bit exaggerated. Reporters Without Borders says that they made changes to their methodology. Suddenly the U.S. drops in rank. I think those two facts are related.

    • Reporters Without Borders says that they made changes to their methodology. Suddenly the U.S. drops in rank. I think those two facts are related.

      What's that old saying... "Figures never lie, but lairs figure" or is it, "Lies, damned lies, and statistics!"

  • by Koreantoast ( 527520 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:07PM (#46271301)
    When one bothers to actually look at the data, the rank for the United States is still higher than its ranking in 2006, 2007 and 2011. Since 2002, the United States press freedom has bounced back and forth between the 20s and 50s. This is not to say that there isn't merit to the deficits in press freedom that Reporters Without Borders points out; there are very legitimate concerns being raised about recent efforts by the current administration to crack down on leakers and whistleblowers. Yet because Reporters Without Borders is regularly changing their methodology, you can't really use the data to make a true comparison of any nation's change in rank beyond very broad generalizations. Here's a good story in the Washington Post [] that makes this point.
  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @10:10PM (#46272707)

    If there's anything to this, then IMHO, the American press is its own worst enemy by placing ideology above objectivity.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford