The United States of America has dropped 27 places in a ranking of press freedom due to targeting of journalists covering the Occupy movement.
The US is now rank 47 on the Press Freedom Index, which stated that the country “owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests”. The index was released on Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders’.
Journalists covering the Occupy protest in 2011 were repeatedly targeted by police. The Huffington Post reported last year that: “Since September, journalists have been arrested in Boston, Nashville, Rochester, Richmond, Milwaukee, Oakland, Atlanta, and Chapel Hill, according to Josh Stearns, associate program director of Free Press, a non-partisan media reform organization. Journalists have also reported rough treatment at the hands of the cops along with difficulties obtaining press credentials under rigid and often arbitrary rules established by police departments in big cities.”
The Huffington Post also reported that “Reporter after reporter — many using the hashtag “#mediablackout” — tweeted through the night, saying that police had either blocked them from seeing what was happening or had acted violently towards them. Some correspondents were also among the scores of people arrested by police.
“At his press conference about the raid on Tuesday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said journalists were barred from covering the raid “to protect members of the press,” and “to prevent a situation from getting worse.”
Reports of beatings, arrests and harassment led the US to drop 27 places on the Press Freedom Index. Iraq (152nd) fell back 22 places, close to its 2008 position (158th). Syria also fell in the index, to 176th position, due to “total censorship, widespread surveillance, indiscriminate violence and government manipulation made it impossible for journalists to work”, the index reported.
As it released its 10th annual press freedom index, Reporters Without Borders stated: “This year’s index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world.
“Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements. Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes. The past year also highlighted the leading role played by netizens in producing and disseminating news.”