In the United States, we rightly pride ourselves on many things. Yet it turns out that the United States is behind countries such as Namibia, Mali, Estonia, and Papua New Guinea in one very important area.
Reporters Without Borders have recently released their Press Freedom Index for 2011-2012, and the U.S. is 47th, just below Taiwan and tied with Argentina. For a country that gave birth to the Bill of Rights this ought to be at the very least embarrassing, and at the worst, shameful.
The report cites the response to protests in 2011 as justification for the United States’ poor ranking. In the space of two months more than 25 journalists were arrested, escorted off premises, or beaten for ‘inappropriate behavior’, ‘public nuisance’, and lacking accreditation. Instances like this are now easy to document thanks to modern technology, and some of the videos of such instances are depressing and bemusing in equal measure. These infringements would be worrying enough for First Amendment advocates, but the recent fiasco with SOPA and PIPA are also cause for concern.
The last decade has seen an unacceptable number of abuses of U.S. citizen’s rights. The right to privacy and the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures as codified in the Fourth Amendment is being slowly chipped away through invasive legislation such as the Patriot Act (renewed by President Obama) and NDAA. The right to keep and bear arms is being turned into an almost prohibitive bureaucratic nightmare in some parts of the country, as Emily Miller of the Washington Times has been chronicling. The Fifth Amendment has seen its own fair share of wear and tear, being ignored or treated as an obstacle by overbearing politicians in the name of security.
The Constitution of the United States is a piece of political genius, and it is a shame to see the rights it establishes being so brazenly reduced. Countries that until recently were ruled by dictators that often killed journalists are considered a more open environment in which to practice journalism than the U.S. Perhaps we should be doing a better job at reclaiming our intellectual and political heritage, and reminding the politicians of the document they swore to uphold and protect.
Image from Shutterstock/Scott Rothstein