The journalistic advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has released its annual World Press Freedom Index, a ranking of the countries with the best and worst treatment for journalists trying to do their job. As you might expect, the rankings show continued lack of press freedoms in dictatorships, contrasted with the better conditions in democracies on the whole.
The rankings range from media-safe light colors to the dark pits of Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan, the three lowest-scoring countries. Scandinavia and North Europe dominated the other end of the spectrum, with Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway taking the top three, the same trio as last year's best finishers. China, which recently pressed Bloomberg News not to publish an unflattering story on the relationship between a Chinese billionaire and government officials, finished 7th-worst in the index.
Last year's rankings were dominated by the large, regional crackdown on Arab Spring uprisings, but those movements have largely abated in 2013. "This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term," the report explains.
The United States was one of the bigger risers in the rankings, jumping 15 spots from 47th to 32nd among countries. But Reporters Without Borders termed that jump "deceptive progress," as last year's low ranking was caused by the crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which "did not spare reporters in the field," the report explains. And despite recent reports of the United Kingdom's intimidation of The Guardian for its role in reporting the Edward Snowden leaks, the U.K. actually scored higher on the rankings than the U.S. at No. 29. Having the First Amendment isn't the end-all be-all of press freedoms, if you don't actually play by the rules.