Saturday, October 28, 2006

We're Number 18, We're Number 18, We're Number 18

Reporters Without Borders just released their 5th annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

As the fatuous title of this post attests we’re now ranked 18th.

But what interested me more than our current ranking was our history with the project.

In 2002, which was the first year of the rankings we were ranked 5th, the highest ranked country outside Europe.

In 2003, without comment, we dropped to 10th. Still in the top 10, if barely, but now some of the former Soviet bloc countries like Latvia and the Czech Republic are ranked almost the same as us.

In 2004 we drop another 8 places to 18th and in 2005 to 21st along with other Western democracies. In our case the reasons cited are “…decisions that weakened the privacy of sources and sometimes turned journalists into “court auxiliaries.”

We’ve climbed back into 18th this year, we’re still in the top 20, but Bolivia is ranked ahead of us this year. Canada and Bolivia are in fact the only 2 non-European countries in the top 20.

Isn’t it interesting that the decline in press freedom in Western democracies has coincided so nicely with the consolidation of corporate ownership?

Isn’t it also interesting how many former Soviet bloc countries have risen so sharply into top positions?

Perhaps a free press is more important in places where they have direct, recent and personal experience of what living without one can be like.

Speaking of which the US this year ranks as 56th far behind the bastion of democracy and freedom known as Bulgaria which also ranks one position ahead of France.

But for me the burning question is this: Have we slipped from number 5 to number 18 in 5 years because government, beginning with the Martin neo-liberal regime and continuing into the present Harper neo-conservative regime, has defanged the press?

Or has the press voluntarily taken it's teeth out and put them in the glass beside the bed in order to get a better sleep?

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