December 1, 2006



Freedom of the press
by Jim Hightower

We're Americans, so we like to be Number One, right? Not only do we like to be, we expect to be!

And, since we are, by gollies, the "Land of the Free," it's a given that in all things libertyish we are Numero Uno in the world, right? After all, we're America, we're the richest, we're the best, we're the freest, we're... number 53?

Yes. The watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders, has just released its 2006 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, ranking nations on their record of government censorship, threats, intimidation, jailings or physical reprisals against journalists. Our good Ol' U.S. of A. did not make the Top 10, Top 25, or even the Top 50.

Holy Founding Fathers! The U.S. is tied with Botswana, Croatia and Tonga for 53rd! Okay, you might expect those goody-two shoes, countries like Finland and Iceland to rank above us — but Estonia, Slovenia, Namibia, El Salvador, Serbia, the Dominican Republic? Sheesh, I suppose we have to be proud that we do rank ahead of Turkmenistan, where the government, tortured a journalist to death last year.

The trend here is not good. In last year's index, America ranked 44th in press freedoms, and in 2002 our country was 17th. Reporters Without Borders cites our government's imprisoning of several journalists and the Bushites' imperious efforts to intimidate reporters who criticize them as reasons for America's continuing slide down the freedom scale. Cheney has yet to shoot a reporter, but, hey, they've still got two years left, so maybe we haven't even bottomed out.

For a nation that enshrines "freedom of the press" in the very first provision of our Bill of Rights, chanting "We're number 53" is humiliating. By the way, check out Iraq, where Bush has poured precious America blood and treasure into his "Operation Enduring Freedom." It ranks 154th in press freedom — 15th from the bottom.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com


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