Um, yeah. That's what Reporters Without Borders' latest annual survey on press freedom throughout the world says, putting the U.S. on par with Botswana, Croatia and Tonga. That's a nine point drop from its spot last year and a 36 point drop from its original position (17th) in the survey's first year.
(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Why the drop? RWB cites the contentious relationship between the media and the Bush administration, which "sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of 'national security' to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his 'war on terrorism.'" That, and the "zeal of federal courts" for not passing a law that protects journalists from revealing their sources. The survey specifically mentions journalist/blogger Josh Wolf, jailed when he refused to provide footage of a political protest in California to a federal grand jury; Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj, who has been held at Guantanamo since 2002 without charges; and AP photographer Bilal Hussein, who has been held in Iraq for six months with no charges.
Who are the worst offenders? North Korea wins the grand prize. Following behind are Turkmenistan, Eritrea, Cuba, Burma and, as if we haven't mentioned it enough on this Web site, China.