Press freedom declines in US and globally, report says

Politics
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WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer conducts the daily press briefing at the White House March 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. Spicer fielded quesitons from reporters about Syria, allegations of Russia working with the Trump campaign and a variety of other subjects. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Press freedom in the United States and across the world is at its lowest point in 13 years, according to a new report by the independent watchdog group Freedom House.

The group makes its annual analysis based on the legal, political, and economic environment for journalists in the prior year. The countries are rated on a scale of 0-100, and the closer to zero a country is, the freer its press.

This year’s report changed the United States’ press freedom rating by two points, from 21 to 23 — its worst rating in more than a decade. The group attributes this to a worsening political environment, the rise and polarization of partisan media outlets and an increase in Russian-sponsored propaganda related to the 2016 presidential election.

President Donald Trump’s open disparagement of the press, both as a candidate and since taking office, also contributed to the diminished score, according to the report.

“No US president in recent memory has shown greater contempt for the press than Trump in his first months in office,” the report noted. “Trump’s attacks mirror initial actions in other countries where media freedom subsequently suffered far more drastic restrictions and interference.” 

Still, the US is categorized as having a free press in the latest findings, and its constitutional protections were applauded.

“The United States remains one of the most press-friendly countries in the world,” the report said. “It enjoys lively, aggressive, and diverse media, and some of the strongest legal protections for reporting and expression anywhere in the world.”

Globally, the 2017 report found that only 31% of countries have a free press, which the group defines as “a media environment where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.”

Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and Denmark had the most press freedom; North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Crimea and Eritrea had the least.

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