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Security authorities are increasingly hindering the work of journalists
February 12, 2014 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Reporters without Borders has released their World Press Freedom Index 2014.
Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway.
US ranks 46th down 13. UK ranks 33 down 3.
The last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent.
posted by adamvasco (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's incredible that there's a country ranked lower than North Korea.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:59 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


"The upsurge in violence against journalists finally elicited a response from the international community – in terms of resolutions, at least. "
posted by doctornemo at 7:21 AM on February 12


To be fair, 2013 was an anomalously open year for the US. In 2012 we were 47th.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:27 AM on February 12


18 Canada

Come the fuck on. True North strong and free, Harper. FFS.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:33 AM on February 12


Reporters Without Borders is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy among other state actors. The World Press Freedom index has an agenda, mostly an international right-wing agenda, and should not be taken for good coin.
posted by graymouser at 7:52 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I'm sure Harper is taking steps to ensure Canada is ranked even lower next year.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:53 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I find it difficult to believe that any international right-wing agenda would be lionizing the Scandinavian countries, which aren't exactly what most people would call right wing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:18 AM on February 12


I find it difficult to believe that any international right-wing agenda would be lionizing the Scandinavian countries, which aren't exactly what most people would call right wing.

Look at Latin America. First, RSF has been funded (and as far as I know still is) by anti-Castro Cubans who seek to ensure that Cuba sits at the bottom of the rankings. There are obviously problems with Cuba and press freedom, but it's a given. The low rankings of Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela are also intentional and have reflected the agenda of RSF for years.

The fact is simple that, despite its claims to impartiality, Reporters Without Borders takes money from the US government and reflects that government's agenda. They don't do so in some sweeping, moustache-twirling way that promotes the US as #1, but they make damn sure that any developing country not following Washington's lead heads immediately toward the bottom of the list.
posted by graymouser at 8:28 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I'm trying to parse what you're saying and it just makes no sense.

Reporters Without Borders takes money from the US government and reflects that government's agenda.

That would be the USA's obviously liberal/socialist agenda? Look again at the top 20 or so countries. I'm also trying to understand how dropping the USA in the rankings somehow serves a US-centric agenda.

Then you say that there are "obviously problems with Cuba and press freedom," while handwaving away that said problems contribute to Cuba's ranking on the list. I'm not sure what "but it's a given" means? Is it a given that Cuba has freedom-of-the-press issues (which I'd grant), or it's a given that RSF makes up their rankings at the behest of their government masters? (Which assumes facts not in evidence, because I'm not seeing a whole lot of proof here).

I mean seriously, you can't argue that they're somehow promulgating some US agenda while looking at all the countries ranked near the top: almost entirely socialist, progressive, socially liberal countries. That, I say with some understatement, is hardly the US agenda.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:52 AM on February 12


The fact is simple that, despite its claims to impartiality, Reporters Without Borders takes money from the US government and reflects that government's agenda

Look, I hold zero brief for the US government here. If RSF is biased towards the US government they are doing a fine job of disguising it.

The bottom of the table is populated by dictator-led countries, some of which are US-aligned. E.g. Equatorial Guinea and Turkmenistan. Others, like Cuba and DPRK are not US aligned but also at the bottom of the pile. The common theme is not politics but governance.

Other US-aligned countries sitting below the main South American countries include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Philippines and Singapore as well as India, Oman and Thailand.

If Bolivia and Ecuador are getting a kicking for being LEFT WING and BAD, one should also note that they sit directly above Israel. Venezuela is no bastion of press freedom. But then neither is US-aligned Qatar or the UAE, both of which have similar scores.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:54 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


The fact is simple that, despite its claims to impartiality, Reporters Without Borders takes money from the US government and reflects that government's agenda. They don't do so in some sweeping, moustache-twirling way that promotes the US as #1, but they make damn sure that any developing country not following Washington's lead heads immediately toward the bottom of the list.

Did RSF's rankings exist in the 70s when the US was setting up right-wing dictatorships in Latin America? Did those dictatorships routinely get an at-least-they're-not-Commies bonus in their scores?
posted by acb at 8:55 AM on February 12


Clearly, this entire project is just more disgraceful anti-Eritrea propaganda.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:58 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia actually has a good summary of the criticisms against RSF. It's been consistently problematic in its reporting on Latin America with a systematic bias against countries in disfavor with the US. That remains true with its current report. It is a documented fact that the group takes US money specifically with emphasis on the Western Hemisphere, and reflects its agenda in that regard.

Talking about the places it puts countries seen as liberal is beside the point. A distorted picture of the world does not need to be wholly false to be misleading.
posted by graymouser at 9:07 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I am just happy to hear that reporters are trying to find information instead of waiting for whatever flacks send in.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:07 AM on February 12


Sourcewatch also makes an interesting read.
posted by adamvasco at 9:49 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia actually has a good summary of the criticisms against RSF. It's been consistently problematic in its reporting on Latin America with a systematic bias against countries in disfavor with the US.

Your wikipedia article doesn't show that, though. Firstly, it doesn't mention any other Latin American countries apart from Cuba and Venezuela.

The larger part of the criticism concerns Cuba. The first criticism is that the organisation directly campaigned against Cuba in 2003. The article does not mention that in the same period the organisation launched more than 100 campaigns. For example, they have directly campaigned against Bahrain, a strategic ally of the US. This does not absolve RSF, but it doesn't remove the suspicion that parts of the wikipedia article were written by someone with an axe to grind.

The second criticism is that the organisation took $50k from an anti-Castro group. It does not contextualise that the organisation has a budget of around $4m, and is also funded by the European Commission, George Soros, UNESCO and others. $50k = just over 1% of its budget. Where the budget comes from is important, but if $50k from an anti-Cuban group is relevant, but it's hardly a gotcha that the organisation revolves around a fraction of its funding sources. The third criticism is largely unsubstantiated rumours and gripes.

Reporting on sensitive issues like press freedom will lead to criticism. No media outlet or campaign group is immune from such criticisms. Sometimes that criticism is designed to tar the whole enterprise. This does not, by itself render the organisation suspect.

There are then two criticisms of bias from left leaning organisations on how RSF/RWB dealt with Haiti and Venezuela, including allegations that RSF should have reported things in a different way. One of those criticisms has a direct rebuttal. It's an isolated amount of criticism for a high profile organisation, coming from sources that are also highly partisan.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:00 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Yeah, really, if there was any bias in there from the right wing, I really think the US wouldn't be that far down. Or, like, not #1. There especially wouldn't be any trouble about "security authorities," for god's sake. I'm about as far-left as anyone wants to talk about, and I've never heard anything about RSF.
posted by nevercalm at 10:56 AM on February 12


And as is the norm in these types of rankings, New Zealand comes in first for English-speaking countries, at #9.

I really want to move to New Zealand someday.
posted by Scientist at 11:16 AM on February 12


They've released their methodology and questionnaire, but not the raw data AFAIK.

The score depends in part upon a number which increases the longer a "journalist, netizen or media assistant" is imprisoned. Barrett Brown alone should cause our rating to drop for the next 105 years, at the most.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:01 PM on February 12


Yeah, really, if there was any bias in there from the right wing, I really think the US wouldn't be that far down. Or, like, not #1.

I've no idea if RSF is biased, but this is not how systemic bias works. People frequently find means of salving their consciences while appeasing their paymasters. Not every bad thing in the world is an egregious sin committed by a pantomime villain. The "right wing" is not a monolithic block of wickedness, and the sooner the modern "far-left" re-establishes some sort of grip on basic Marxist concepts like class interest the better.
posted by howfar at 12:29 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I was surprised there was no mention of Nauru.
Visa application fee hike for journalists
posted by joz at 6:39 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


There's an interesting story on On The Media about this. While not dismissing the concerns of or the work done by Reporters Without Borders, it points out that the annual ranking may not be the best way to understand the severity of the situation, and seem designed to increase the buzz.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:25 PM on February 15


The score depends in part upon a number which increases the longer a "journalist, netizen or media assistant" is imprisoned. Barrett Brown alone should cause our rating to drop for the next 105 years, at the most.

Barrett Brown’s Defense Moves to Protect the Right to Link
posted by homunculus at 1:28 AM on March 5


NSA chief criticises media and suggests UK was right to detain David Miranda: Keith Alexander says revelations have caused ‘grave damage’ and claims officials are making ‘headway’ on ‘media leaks’
posted by homunculus at 11:19 PM on March 5


Al Jazeera journalists appear in Egypt court, see trial adjourned: Caged in the defendants’ dock, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed must wait till March 24 for next hearing
posted by homunculus at 12:39 AM on March 6


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