U.S. Ranks 41st in 2016 World Press Freedom Index
By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team
In a recent Question of the Week, we asked whether disclosing wrongdoing to members of the media should be a protected whistleblowing activity. Since our posting, Reporters Without Borders (“RWB”) has issued its 2016 World Press Freedom Index, which ranked the U.S. 41st out of 180 countries. While the U.S. actually moved up from its 49th place ranking in 2015, the RWB cited a significant issue, which it described as “the government’s war on whistleblowers who leak information about its surveillance activities, spying and foreign operations, especially those linked to counter-terrorism.” Additionally, it negatively highlighted that “U.S. journalists are still not protected by a ‘shield law’ guaranteeing their right not to reveal their sources and other confidential work-related information.”
In a more detailed analysis, RWB praised a new hostage policy that President Obama unveiled in June of 2015. RWB particularly lauded provisions in the new policy that allow for additional familial involvement and the possibility of negotiating with hostage-takers. However, RWB went on to criticize the Obama administration, claiming that, “[the administration] has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined.”
And of course the 2016 election cycle was not omitted from the analysis, of which RWB stated, “[the election cycle] has also been cause for concern. Since the primaries began last summer, journalists have seen their access to campaign events regularly restricted by candidates from both political parties and have been insulted and even bullied on social media.” Its noteworthy that the media’s role in the 2016 campaign season has come under fire from President Obama, for what he has described as a lack of accountability for candidates’ “unworkable plans:”
A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It is to probe and to question and to dig deeper and to demand more. The electorate would be better served if that happened. It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability. Especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep.