We are well aware of the problems that face the media today; freedom of the press and democratic processes are at risk of disappearing. Corporate ownership of the media – where people such as the Murdoch’s of the world run massive chunks of the mainstream media platform – lead directly to a sea of propaganda and misinformation via their bias and sponsorship.
Human nature dictates to us, that if one or two people control a specific mechanism involving information, the crowd will rarely get all sides of the picture. It is increasingly difficult to call yourself an investigative journalist without having to worry about the legal ramifications, censorship, labeling as a nut-job; or simply lose your job because you don’t write the official line.
Al-Jazeera journalists face the death penalty in Egypt following the court’s decision that they are guilty of leaking state secrets.
In Iran in 2009, an American-Iranian journalist for NPR, Roxana Saberi faced an 8 year sentence for espionage. A sentence that does carry the death penalty. Her initial charges were working without the proper press credentials. In 2015 similar espionage charges occurred for U.S. journalist, Jason Rezaian.
To an extent, you expect these cases in Iran and Egypt. They’ve also occurred in Jordan, Syria and North Korea. But what about Western democratic countries?
New York Times journalist James Risen suffred harassment by the Department of Justice after he published his book State of War. The DOJ demanded the release of his sources’ details in 2015, threatening jail time if he didn’t renege; citing espionage.
Al-Jazeera warned of the ‘silencing of journalists’ under increasingly rigid terrorism and national security laws. Just take a look at Glenn Greenwald after the Edward Snowden-U.S. surveillance expose.
Then there was Barrett Brown and his incarceration after publishing a link to his site, and revealing emails of Stratfor members – a private intelligence firm. Facing 105 years of prison, Brown’s charges still continue to see him behind bars.
The World’s Western Press Freedoms are Fading
This year, the U.S. crept up from 49th positon to 41 on the World Press Freedom Index, only surpassing France this year probably due to the State of Emergency laws. The ranking comes from a list of 180 countries. Why isn’t the “Land of the Free” in the top 20? The United Kingdom ranks at 38; Australia only at 25.
Canada offers hope, coming in at 18; Germany 16; New Zealand at 5; and pole position goes to Finland at 1.
The United States presidential elections have been cited as one reason. According to Reporters Without Borders, they suggest “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.”
Opposing views are becoming the endangered creature.
“The survival of independent news coverage is becoming increasingly precarious in both the state and privately-owned media because of the threat from ideologies, especially religious ideologies, that are hostile to media freedom, and from large-scale propaganda machines,” states Reporters without Borders.
The video below outlines some of the issues with the U.S. media machine and the challenges journalists – true journalists, face. You decide for yourself.
Sources: NPR, Sky News, CNN, Al Jazeera, Reporters Without Borders.
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