Most Americans believe that the USA provides the highest levels of freedom and democracy anywhere in the world. This belief is also held by many people outside the USA. Is this belief based on fact, or is it simply a myth? I’ve chosen five countries for a comparison: USA, France, Japan, South Africa and New Zealand. The selection is purely arbitrary, but I have selected one country from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. There are many non-governmental organisations that monitor levels of freedom, and I have selected published results from just a few. Again the selection is purely arbitrary. I’m not trying to do a precise measurement of the levels of freedom but simply to gather enough evidence to support the claim that “America is the land of the free”. This post, the first of several on this topic, will look at press freedom. At the end of the series I will give my subjective opinion on whether the statement is fact or myth.
Reporters Without Borders is the largest press freedom organization in the world with almost 30 years of experience. Thanks to its unique global network of 150 local correspondents investigating in 130 countries, 12 national offices (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, USA) and a consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO, Reporters Without Borders is able to have a global impact by gathering and providing on the ground intelligence, conducting cybersecurity workshops, and defending and assisting news providers all around the world.
Reporters Without Borders evaluates press freedom in approximately 180 countries each year. This year it ranked the USA 49th (score: 24.41), France 38th (21.15), Japan 61st (score: 26.95), South Africa 39th (score: 22.06), and New Zealand 6th (score: 10.06) . The top three countries were Finland (7.52), Norway (7.75), and Denmark (8.24). The countries with the lowest levels of press freedom were Eritrea (84.83), North Korea ( 81.96), and Turkmenistan (80.81). Of the five countries, only New Zealand was rated with a good situation Press Freedom Index. The USA, France and South Africa were rated satisfactory situation, while Japan was rated noticeable problems. The USA ranking of 49th surprised me as I had thought the country would be in the top 10 countries and higher placed than New Zealand. I’m not sure why it received such a poor rating as I’m not aware of any US laws that limit press freedom more than in NZ. Perhaps the American press self censors more than the Kiwi press?
Part 2 of this series can be found here.