It’s a common refrain from leaders and politicians that the United States is first in the world — in what, though, it’s not entirely clear. And if a new report from Reporters Without Borders is any indication, it’s that the United States is definitely not first in the world when it come to freedom of the press.
In fact, according to the latest ranking, the United States has dropped three places, now at number 48 — behind countries such as Romania, Latvia and Chile. This puts the U.S. in the “problematic” category, reserved for countries displaying a worrying decline in journalistic freedoms.
Reporters Without Borders is an organization that monitors press freedoms and advocates for journalism rights around the globe. Every year, the group releases its rankings — and, sadly, its most recent report finds a worldwide trend of declining press freedoms.
It should not come as any great surprise that the United States’ ranking is slipping, however. While this did not necessarily begin under the current administration, President Donald Trump has displayed time and again an open hostility toward journalists since entering the White House.
Not only has Trump repeatedly sparred with members of the White House press corp and frequently taken to Twitter to smear journalists, he’s made a point of openly defying press and human rights — this inclination was no doubt made particularly clear with the case of Jamal Khashoggi. Though it is hard to deny that Saudi Arabia was behind the Washington Post journalist’s murder, Trump and his administration have firmly held onto giving Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s word more creedence than various foreign governments and his own intelligence services.
But this is hardly the only act of violence and intimidation happening against those working for American media in the past year. A bevy of newsrooms across the country have reported bomb threats, including the so-called MAGA bomber, Cesar Sayoc, who mailed crude bombs to a handful of Trump’s political opposition as well as a pair targeting CNN.
Others have been arrested over threatening violence against journalists and media outlets and in one case an individual attacked a newsroom in Annapolis, Md., killing five.
The First Amendment arguably contains some of the most valuable freedoms guaranteed to Americans by the constitution, including freedom of the press. When the president of the United States repeatedly calls journalists in this country the “enemy of the people,” his supporters listen. In journalists, they find an object on which to direct their discontent and frustration and, in some cases, lash out against.
The fact that Americans this happening, while Trump continues to not be held accountable for inciting violence against one of the most important institutions in a functional democracy, should be chilling.
This article was originally published on Care2.com on May 1, 2019.