WASHINGTON: The US' level of freedom of the press continues to plummet, according to a new report from the public interest group Reporters Without Borders (RWB).
The group's fifth annual Press Freedom Index ranked the US 53rd in the world. That is a decline of nine spots since last year, and 36 spots since the index debuted in 2002.
Lucie Morillon, RWB's Washington representative, attributed the decline to increasing legal pressure from federal courts on journalists to reveal confidential sources, including the jailing of reporters who refuse to cooperate with criminal investigations. She also cited statements from the Bush administration condemning various news stories for disclosing government secrets.
"It's the image of the country itself that is at stake," Morillon said. "The US is the most powerful country in the world, and it is being scrutinized even more than other countries. That's why it needs to pay attention to the way that journalists and the media are being treated."
Morillon said the solution to the problem lies in the passage of a federal shield law for journalists, similar to those that exist in many of the states.
She said that RWB hasn't gotten an official response to the Index from the US government.