Reporters without Borders (ROWB) released their 2015 World Press Freedom Index report, and the United States fell to 49th out of 180, down from 32nd in from just two years ago.

According to RWOB,

“In the United States, 2014 was marked by judicial harassment of New York Times investigative reporter James Risen in connection with the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged under the Espionage Act with giving him classified information. US journalists are still not protected by a federal shield law that would guarantee their right to not name their sources or reveal other confidential information about their work. Meanwhile, at least 15 journalists were arbitrarily arrested during clashes between police and demonstrators protesting against black teenager Michael Brown’s fatal shooting by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.”

The US ranked behind all of the Scandinavian countries, much of western Europe, and countries you might not expect like the Czech Republic, Ghana, and Niger.

The top-ranked country for the fifth year in a row was Finland, who had an abuses score — which “reflects the intensity of the violence and harassment to which journalists and other news-information providers were subjected during the year — of zero. For comparison, America’s abuses score was 31.78.

Rounding out the top ten were, in order, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Austria, Canada, Jamaica, and Estonia.

The bottom five on the list were China, Syria, Turkmenistan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Eritrea, about which RWOB said was “deservedly last” for its systematic violations of the freedom of the press.

“It is Africa’s biggest prison for journalists, with at least 16 currently detained – some of them held incommunicado for years. In 2014 alone, Reporters Without Borders supported about 30 requests for international protection filed by Eritrean journalists who had fled their country. President Afeworki, who is on the [RWOB] list of ‘Predators of Press Freedom,’ does not envisage reforms any time soon and continues to ignore the international community’s recommendations. In early 2014, he said: Those who think there will be democracy in this country can think so in another world.”

Coincidentally, Eritrea’s abuses score was identical to the United States’.

While the US might be relatively safe for journalists in terms of imprisonment or violence, coming in 49th is embarrassing. America is supposed to be a safe haven for journalists and allegedly has the best news media in the world. The consistent drop in the rankings proves that’s not even close to true and a lot of work needs to be done to improve the country’s position.

Click here to read the full ROWB report.


Richard Eskow is host and managing editor of The Zero Hour, a weekly radio program produced by We Act Radio. He was the senior writer and editor for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Richard has written for a number of print and online publications, was a founding contributor to the Huffington Post, and is a longtime activist. He is also a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future.