On the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, released April 25 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the United States dropped two spots to 45th out of 180 countries measured. The index, which ranks countries around the world on the freedom available to journalists there based on media independence, legislative protection and safety, rated the U.S. “fairly good.”
Only 9% of countries on the index scored a “good rating,” and indicators of press freedom worsened across the globe.
“Despite having strong constitutional protections to the contrary, the latest World Press Freedom Index findings on the US and Canada reveal two countries whose journalists and media workers face constant challenges to the very freedom to exercise their profession,” said the report.
This news will come as no surprise to anyone following our Voice of the First Amendment Task Force’s continuous admonitions over the past year, calling out government agencies, officials, courts, candidates and the public for continuous and growing efforts to thwart journalists’ work to keep the public informed.
The RSF report cited among the reasons for the press freedom decline a growing trend in which “The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving.”
That dissolution is clearly evident through a quick look at the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which RTDNA is a founding member, showing 7 attacks on and 2 arrests of journalists this year in the U.S.
In addition, the tracker reports least 21 cases of threats, denials of access, legal orders, or other incidents limiting the ability of reporters to inform the public.
Still, journalists around the country are uncovering and helping communities right wrongs every day.
Just take a look at any one of the 54 investigative reporting pieces named April 25 as 2018 Regional Murrow Award winners. Here are a few:
Sharing – and recognizing – the impact of this important work on the individuals and communities whose stories are being told goes a long way towards showing the public how journalism matters to their daily lives, one of the RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force’s central missions.
The other: to defend against threats to the First Amendment.
As long as there are Murrow-winning local journalists serving their communities, producing more and better responsible journalism every day, we’ll have their backs and do our part to keep press freedom strong.