Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The U.S. slid down a yearly list ranking press freedom in nations around the world, falling three places to number 48. (Image: Reporters Without Borders)

US Slides Down Annual Press Freedom Ranking, With Watchdog Calling Nation 'Problematic' for Reporters' Rights

"Never before have U.S. journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection."

Julia Conley

An annual accounting of press freedoms around the world describes an "intense climate of fear" in which reporters are being forced to work, calling out world leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for their attacks on the media.

Trump's repeated statements that journalists are "the enemy of the people" and his threats to roll back their right to report political news have been a contributing factor in the United States' descent to 48th place in the Press Freedom Index, which was released Thursday by Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF).

The U.S. slid down the list three places and is now categorized as a "problematic" country for journalists' rights, according to RSF.

"The violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level of the U.S. government has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions," RSF reported.

The country is behind Slovakia, where an investigative journalist was murdered in 2018 after reporting on the Calabrian mafia's connections in the government; Botswana; and Romania.

The top-rated country, for the third year in a row, is Norway, with RSF praising the government for not subjecting journalists to political pressure or censorship.

In contrast, Trump has weakened the United States media's right to report, the group said, amid incidents including the president's refusal to condemn the Saudi government for allegedly ordering the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi; a number of bomb threats that targeted media outlets last year, apparently from a Trump supporter; and the physical assault of a BBC cameraman at a Trump rally where the president had slammed the media as "dishonest."  

The United States' slide into the "problematic" realm on the Press Freedom Index is part of an international trend, RSF said, of attacks on press freedom.

"The 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows how hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear," RSF wrote in its report. "The number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Sanders Vows to 'Stand With Rail Workers' as Republican Says Congress Will Prevent Strike

"Last year, the rail industry made a record-breaking $20 billion in profits," Sen. Bernie Sanders noted. "Meanwhile, rail workers have ZERO guaranteed paid sick days."

Jake Johnson ·


Massive Demonstration of Support for Lopez Obrador in Mexico City

AMLO was elected in 2018 and heralded as the Bernie Sanders of Mexico.

Common Dreams staff ·


Scientists Revive ‘Zombie’ Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost

Researchers documented 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant, frozen in thick ice, over tens of thousands of years.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Cleaner Air Is Coming' as London Expands Vehicle Pollution Fee to Entire Metro Area

"Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs," noted Mayor Sadiq Khan in announcing the expansion.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Amazing News': Historic Shark Protections Approved at Global Wildlife Convention

Up to 90% of sharks targeted by the lucrative fin trade will now be protected, said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo