Reporters without Borders: dodging the blame

A recent analysis by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans Frontiers, or RSF) paints a disturbing picture of the United States: we have less freedom of the press. According to their Press Freedom Index 2006, is tied for 53rd in press freedom with Botswana, Croatia, and Tonga.

This makes for an interesting dichotomy. On the one side you have people complaining about the liberal anti-war press looking for every opportunity to bash the Administration and the Iraq War. On the other, you have (rather had) people complaining about Fox News being the mouthpiece of the Administration. Remember Jon Stewart joking that when Tony Snow got his new job, nothing was really changing but the logo on the screen?

On the first point, sentiment like this is heard:

“The people of America have no clue what it really happening here and that is because they are being spoon fed anti administration propaganda by a democratic leaning media.”

I’m continually fascinated by this revisionist argument that isn't supported by the facts. The real blame, which RSF places displaces onto the Administration and away from the reporters, is the Administration for keeping the effort from an ‘all out’ effort and hiding / obfuscating facts and requirements from the press. The RSF report declares the US media as significantly not free while ignoring the media’s own self-censorship to play along with the hand that feeds.

Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

The "necessity" to play along with the Scott McClellan / Tony Snow show is ignored. Also ignored is the self-enforced point that the media ITSELF does not feel they have a story UNLESS they have somebody inside the Administration / Government to speak against the same government (this is called “indexing”, Robert Entman writes about this). You can easily trace the traction and trajectory of stories through these means to get a better idea. I still love hearing that Fox News is part of the liberal media bias… even the Administration’s own cheerleaders have been turning against them, which is ignored in sentiments like that above.

Technorati tags: Media, Iraq, GWOT