"I believe that if journalists ever stop uncovering abuses of power, and ever stop publishing stories about those abuses, we will lose our democracy." - James Risen


Reporters Without Borders publishes an annual World Press Freedom Index, which aims to measure the degree of the "freedom of information" in each country around the world. More specifically, "It reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news media and netizens (Internet citizens) enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom. It should not be seen as an indication of the quality of the media in the countries concerned."

The United States has fallen to 49th due, in part, to its attempts to prosecute investigative journalist James Risen and due to the unconstitutional arrests of journalists during the Ferguson demonstrations. Just over 66% of countries, worldwide, fell several spots in the 2015 report. James Risen has been outspoken about the governments attempts to subvert the freedom of the press in the United States. In fact, he wrote a book, Pay Any Price, in response to the governments attempts to prosecute him for "leaking state secrets." Risen claims whistleblowers are subject to unprecedented prosecution due to the governments attempt to silence it's dissidents. Last year, the US was placed 46th on the index.

Investigative Journalist, Sharyl Attkisson, has also been an outspoken critic of the US Governments attempts to silence critics. Attkisson claims she has been subject to draconian surveillance techniques due to her attempts to report on several of the "Obama administration scandals." Like Risen, Attkisson has also written a book, Stonewalled, in response to the governments attempts to prevent her from keeping the government honest. As a result of the aforementioned issues, the US has fallen to the lowest point on the index since Obama took office in 2008.

World Press Freedom Index

The methodology involves using a qualitative questionnaire and quantitative criteria to compile the index of press freedom. The 87-question survey is sent to partner organizations, a network of correspondents, journalists, researchers, news media, and bloggers. The questions aim to measure the degree of problems involved in freely reporting information to the general public. This questionnaire is more of a qualitative measure. Reporters Without Borders also utilizes quantitative data it collects from its own monitoring. The qualitative and quantitative measures are combined to create an 'index' that rates each country on a scale from 0-100, with 0 the best score and 100 the worst score.

Index Scores

From 0 to 15 points: Good situation

From 15.01 to 25 points: Satisfactory situation

From 25.01 to 35 points: Noticeable problems

From 35.01 to 55 points: Difficult situation

55.01 to 100 points: Very serious situation

The index uses seven criteria categories to determine index scores: pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses. The first six categories are acquired from the qualitative survey and the last category, abuse, is provided by Reporters Without Borders.

Index Definitions

Pluralism: "Measures the degree to which opinions are represented in the media"

Media independence: "Measures the degree to which the media are able to function independently of sources of political, governmental, business and religious power and influence"

Environment and self-censorship: "Analyses the environment in which journalists and other news and information providers operate"

Legislative framework: "Analyses the impact of the legislative framework governing news and information activities"

Transparency: "Measures the transparency of the institutions and procedures that affect the production of news and information"

Infrastructure: "Measures the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information"

Abuses: "Measures the level of violence and harassment during the period assessed"

Country Ranks (1-49)

Rank/Country

1 Finland

2 Norway

3 Denmark

4 Netherlands

5 Sweden

6 New Zealand

7 Austria

8 Canada

9 Jamaica

10 Estonia

11 Ireland

12 Germany

13 Czech Republic

14 Slovakia

15 Belgium

16 Costa Rica

17 Namibia

18 Poland

19 Luxembourg

20 Switzerland

21 Iceland

22 Ghana

23 Uruguay

24 Cyprus

25 Australia

26 Portugal

27 Liechtenstein

28 Latvia

29 Suriname

30 Belize

31 Lithuania

32 Andorra

33 Spain

34 United Kingdom

35 Slovenia

36 Cape Verde

37 Eastern Caribbean

38 France

39 South Africa

40 Samoa

41 Trinidad and Tobago

42 Botswana

43 Chile

44 Tonga

45 El Salvador

46 Burkina Faso

47 Niger

48 Malta

49 United States


Countries like Niger, Burkina Faso, El Savador, Chile, Botswana, and Trinidad and Tobago fared better than the US did for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index. Finland scored the best followed by Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden - rounding out the top five. Not surprisingly, Eriteria scored the lowest on the index preceded by North Korea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China.

US Scores Since 2002

2002 - 17

2003 - 31

2004 - 22

2005 - 44

2006 - 53

2007 - 48

2008 - 36

2009 - 20

2010 - 20

2011 - not completed

2012 - 47

2013 - 32

2014 - 46

2015 - 49


Image Credit: Associated Press