How's your First Amendment feeling today?
Reporters Without Borders has downgraded the US to 46th-freest country in the world when it comes to the press.
If you're feeling competitive, higher-ranking countries include France (39), Jamaica (17), Ghana (27), and Finland (1). Lower-ranking countries include Russia (148), Thailand (130), Mexico (152), and Cuba (170).
The rankings are based on violence directed at journalists, censorship, self-censorship, and the diversity of the media landscape. In Brazil, for example, "the phenomenon of 'colonels,' regional politicians who are also businessmen and media owners constitutes a major obstacle to media pluralism and independence, turning journalists into the tools of local barons and exposing them to often deadly score-settling." In Tonga and Papua New Guinea, four reporters have been punished for "criticizing" their prime ministers.
There has been little improvement in practice under Barack Obama. Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them. No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush’s two terms...
The whistleblower is the enemy. Hence the 35-year jail term imposed on Private Chelsea/Bradley Manning for being the big WikiLeaks source, an extremely long sentence but nonetheless small in comparison with the 105-year sentence requested for freelance journalist Barrett Brown in a hacking case. Amid an all-out hunt for leaks and sources, 2013 will also be the year of the Associated Press scandal, which came to light when the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had seized the news agency’s phone records.