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U.S. Press Freedom Slips Under Obama: Report

According to Reporters Without Borders' annual report on global press freedom, the U.S. had one of the most significant declines of any country.
Posted at 1:43 PM, Feb 12, 2014

Considering the U.S. explicitly protects freedom of the press in its Constitution, the results of a new survey are kind of alarming.

Each year, media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders compiles a list of press freedom rankings around the world. 

This year, the U.S. suffered one of the most significant declines of any country, dropping from No. 32 to No. 46. (Via Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders says the U.S. has stifled freedom of the press in a bid to protect national security. The group points to three major events that contributed to this year's low ranking.

Those are the administration's handling of NSA whisteblower Edward Snowden, the conviction of Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, who is now serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking documents to WikiLeaks, and the Justice Department's seizure of phone records from the Associated Press. (Via The Guardian, ABC, U.S. Justice Department

While President Obama came into office pledging a more transparent government, his critics say he's fallen short of those promises. (Via The White House

His administration has prosecuted six government officials for leaking information to the media. That's twice as many as all previous administrations combined — which Obama has defended in the name of national security.  

OBAMA: "Leaks related to national security can put people at risk. …  I make no apologies, and I don't think the American people would expect me as the commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or get them killed." (Via The White House

Still, that hasn't silenced the journalists who charge the administration's aggressive stance on leaks has scared off potential sources from coming forward. (Via The White House

Journalists have also complained they haven't been given enough access to the president — who finished off his first term with the fewest news conferences since President Reagan. (Via The Huffington Post, Mediaite

​In November, nearly 40 major news outlets signed a letter to the White House protesting the administration's policy of barring photographers from certain presidential events. (Via National Journal

Even though this year's lower press freedom ranking may not have come as a huge surprise, Josh Stearns, campaign director at advocacy group Free Press, says it's concerning for another reason. 

He writes, "Our press freedom ranking is important not just as a measure of the democratic health of our press, but also because hostility toward the press at home can legitimize threats to journalists abroad." (Via Free Press

As for the other global rankings, predictably Syria and Iran are near the bottom of the list among the worst offenders. Finland ranked No. 1.