U.S. ranks 53rd in press freedom index

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Reporters Without Borders, a media advocacy group out of Paris, has released its Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2006. The most free countries are Finland, Iceland, Ireland, and the Netherlands. The least free, ranking 168th, is North Korea, whose media is completely controlled by leader Kim Jong-il.

The United States ranks 53rd equal with other countries: Botswana, Croatia, and Tonga, slipping nine places from last year. The US was in 17th place when the Index was first released in 2002. US press rights violations cited by Reporters Without Borders include al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj, who has been held without trial in Guantanamo Bay since June 2002, and the imprisonment of Josh Wolf, a freelance journalist who refused to turn over footage of a protest to a grand jury.

Reporters Without Borders compiles its Press Freedom Index by "assessing the state of press freedom in each country ... such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats ... censorship, confiscation of issues, searches and harassment." It does not judge the quality of the press.