karl_lembke (karl_lembke) wrote,

Press Freedom Index

Reporters Sans Frontieres has published its fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

I had a few problems with it, which I posted here.
It's interesting to see how various countries lose rank in this index. For example:
Denmark (19th) dropped from joint first place because of serious threats against the authors of the Mohammed cartoons published there in autumn 2005. For the first time in recent years in a country that is very observant of civil liberties, journalists had to have police protection due to threats against them because of their work.

If I were compiling this index, I might be inclined to give Denmark points for working to protect its journalists from these threats, in contrast to:
Yemen (149th) slipped four places, mainly because of the arrest of several journalists and closure of newspapers that reprinted the cartoons. Journalists were harassed for the same reason in Algeria (126th), Jordan (109th), Indonesia (103rd) and India (105th).

Ironically, Denmark loses points because it has a free press. If the government had exercised prior restraint, using whatever force and intimidation required, there'd have been no threats following the publication of the cartoons, and no need for police protection.

In addition, I'd love to know the weighting factors for various items in the questionnaire. For example, is
"During this time, how many journalists:
1. Were murdered?"

given the same weight as

Over the period, was/were there (yes/no):
50. Cyber-dissidents or bloggers harassed or physically attacked (how many?)

given the same weight?
Additionally, it seems to me there's a certain amount of subjectivity involved. "Murder" is fairly straightforward, although I suppose the TLA (Three Letter Agency) could kill someone by some untraceable means. Other items are a lot harder to pin down.

What does it mean to "harass" a reporter, source, or blogger? An item recently in the news concerned a blogger who posted about the possibility of dirty bombs being set off at sports arenas. Last I heard, he was going to be charged for his postings. Is that harassment? Is that given the same weight as the decapitation of Daniel Pearl?

I'd love to see a report on how representative the data are – how well the scale measures what it sets out to measure, and how reliable they are – what's the measurement error look like? (For example, if the numbers have a five point error, the USA's rank could be anywhere between 32 and 80, and Denmark could rank anywhere from first to 40th place. Without that analysis, it's really hard to say for sure what the numbers mean.
On further thought, it occurs to me that one way to avoid losing points because bloggers and "cyber-dissidents" are harassed is to outlaw blogging and "cyber-dissent". If there are no bloggers, no bloggers can be harassed. Problem solved!

Jason Van Steenwyck has some comments on the rankings:

This survey is frigging stupid. The people who put it together are a bunch of intellectually dishonest dupes.

Ranking Tonga alongside the United States is patently absurd. There is no freedom of the Press in Tonga. None. Not by statute, not by constitution, not by case law, and not in fact. Indeed, the government of Tonga has repeatedly seized the largest Tonga newspaper. The ranking is false on its face.

Secondly the idiots specifically mention Bilal Hussein - who was captured at an Al Qaeda safehouse, hanging out with an Al Qaeda leader, and personally tested positive for explosives. They also specifically mentioned Josh Wolf, who is in prison not for anything he's published, but for covering up a federal crime (a self-professed anarchist, he taped people sliding a burning mattress under a police car. He is under a court order to produce the tape in order to assist with the investigation. He refused. The government isn't censoring him. HE'S censoring his content, in order to protect criminals.)

The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources

RSF is as ignorant as they are stupid. There is no such right for the courts to recognize, under Federal law. The courts must uphold the law as written. They cannot invent freedoms just because it makes RSF happy. There is a statutory protection in 33 states. State judges must recognize the protection. Federal judges, by law, cannot, unless Congress passes a law creating that protection.
Tags: politics

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