U.S. slips on World Press Freedom Index

April 26, 2018 02:00

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: 
 
How Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Threatens the Dairy Boom in Idaho Boise State Public Radio
Life After High School Investigation Idaho Education News
Fairchild Water Contamination KREM-TV
How Do N.H. Police Decide to Shoot - or Not Shoot - When Facing Armed, Ill, or Addicted People? New Hampshire Public Radio
Behind the Wall-Jailhouse Suicides WGBH
North Providence Cancer Concerns WJAR-TV
NCCC Scandals: Bid-Rigging and Sexual Assault WKBW-TV
Child Death Investigations WTAE-TV
Scandal Surrounds New Castle County Elected Leader WDEL-FM/AM
NEWS4 I-Team: Tracking Troubled Teachers WRC-TV
Essex Village: Unsafe and Unhealthy Living Conditions WTVR-TV
High Arsenic Levels in Pine Island Ignored by DEP, Lee County WGCU Public Media 
Inside Santa Clara Jails, Predatory Bail Schemes Flourished for Years KQED
Recovering from Rehab The Center for Investigative Reporting
On the Inside: The Chaos of Arizona Prison Health Care KJZZ
Allegations of Sexual Harassment Surface at Colorado Capitol KUNC FM
Double Billing the Badge KARE-TV
Rep. Cornish Blurred Boundaries Between Legislative, Sexual Pursuits Minnesota Public Radio News
Target 2 Investigates: Watered Down Drunk Boating Laws WBAY-TV
Vulnerable Rural Hospitals Face Tough Decisions on Profitable but Questionable Billing Schemes KBIA
Iowa Schools Seclusion Room Investigation KCRG-TV
Criminal Caretakers WFAA-TV
The Federal Lead/Copper Rule Michigan Radio
Justice For All? WFIU/WTIU News
Marines United Investigation into Pandemic Sexual Exploitation Within the Defense Department The War Horse / CIR's Reveal
Louisville Police Don’t Enforce Immigration – But Help the Feds do it WFPL


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.