U.S. Takes a Sharp Drop in World Press Freedom Rankings

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The United States took a nasty drop in the World Press Freedom rankings, released on Wednesday by the media group Reporters Without Borders, falling 14 spots to the 46th best country for journalist freedoms. Of the 180 countries ranked, the home of the First Amendment now sits snuggled between Romania and Haiti.

The U.S.'s jump in last year's rankings was dismissed at the time as "deceptive progress," and true to form, America has fallen back down the list. The rankings report blame the U.S.'s drop on its wide-ranging crackdown on whistleblowers, particularly Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning (who got a 35-year sentence for leaking documents), and the attempted 105-year sentence for Barrett Brown. To the American government, "The whistleblower is the enemy," the report writes. Similarly, the subpoena of Associated Press phone records contributed to that drastic drop.

The best place for press freedom? That would be most of Western Europe and Scandinavia in particular. Finland took the top spot on the rankings for the third consecutive year, followed by top 10 mainstays The Netherlands and Norway. Even the United Kingdom, downgraded for a "worrying" year that was lowlighted by the crackdown on The Guardian for its Snowden-aided exposés on British GCHQ surveillance, only fell four spots to 33rd place. They finished ahead of the U.S. despite an arguably more aggressive approach to Snowden's press friends.

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American journalists could have it much worse, of course, if they lived in any of the countries in the map above colored in dark red and black. That includes almost all of Asia and the Middle East, as well as portions of North and Central Africa. Media censorship in China and Iran keep those two in the bottom ten, while the oppressive, destructive regimes of Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea yet again bring up the worst four spots on the rankings. But hey, there's always next year.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.