Last week, Reporters Without Borders released its Press Freedom Index 2011-2012. Out of 179 countries, the Paris based organization ranked the United States tied for 47th place with Argentina and Romania. In fact, the United States fell from 27th place because of the arrest of reporters during the Occupy protests last fall:
The crackdown on protest movements and the accompanying excesses took their toll on journalists. In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance and even lack of accreditation.
It is true there were reporters arrested during some of the skirmishes which broke out during the Occupy protests. The problem with this line of reasoning is the implication that authorities knowingly and deliberately arrested journalists.
While the arrests may very well have been heavy handed, I hardly think the United States and Argentina are equal in terms of their press freedom. In their eagerness to condemn the United States, all Reporters Without Borders had to say about Argentina was that it “barely moved in the index.”
I guess the efforts of Argentina’s socialist President Cristina Fernandez to curb press freedom isn’t sufficient to move Reporters Without Borders to move it in its index. Last month, the Argentinian Congress voted to give the Fernandez government control of the country’s newsprint. An anti-terrorism law has also been passed with a very broad definition of terrorism. Reporters can now be charged with promoting terrorism if the government deems that their words or pictures terrorize the population. Last September, an Argentinian judge ordered several newspapers to hand over contact information of journalists who had written stories critical of the Argentinian economy. These moves reinforce existing measures taken by the Fernandez government in 2009 to increase state control of the media. Yet that didn’t seem to bother Reporters Without Borders in the least. Its 2009 report states:
A tradition of media diversity, an increase in media democracy and in some cases a decrease in abuse of authority and other censorship attempts are the reason for the very good rankings obtained by Argentina (47th) and Uruguay (29th), which are on par with many European countries.
Ah yes, so in the eyes of Reporters Without Borders, increased state control of the media is simply “media diversity” or “media democracy.” Kind of like what Hugo Chavez does in Venezuela. Perhaps then it is fitting that Argentina’s state run La Plata University bestowed Chavez with a press freedom award last March.