Relatively few Americans are aware that the U.S. ranks #47, not #1, among world nations in press freedom as assessed by Reporters Without Borders. While Americans watched The Biggest Loser, Dancing With the Stars, and The Jersey Shore, journalistic freedom has eroded considerably, a trend that must be reversed.
The cause of America's fall from #20 to #47 was the arrests of 50 to 70 journalists covering the various Occupy protests in 2011. Most of these arrests occurred in connection with the Occupy Wall Street protests, and class action lawsuits are now being filed to prevent future rights violations on the part of NYPD.
In February, documentary filmmaker Josh Fox and his crew were arrested at the order of House Republicans while covering a U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing on energy and the environment. Democrats were predictably enraged at this violation, although it's clear that Democrat representatives have no problem eagerly seeking to bar conservative journalists at many junctures. Hearings of the House of Representatives are open to the public; if they are not, the entire history of the U.S. and governance needs to be reviewed. There's no rational reason, in light of the First Amendment and this nation's history, why Fox and his crew were not only barred from filming a public hearing, they were placed under arrest.
Reporters Without Borders addresses these violations, but does not address the continuous attempts to reduce freedom of the press and speech on the part of the American establishment, and the more insidious problem of slavish adherence to establishment information provision.
Conan O'Brien's decision to televise his costume designer's same-sex wedding illustrates just how slavish mainstream reporting can be. In case you missed it on the 6 PM news, no worries - all other stations would let you know that Conan might have been about to push the envelope on late-night television.
Reporters Without Borders recognizes and documents violations that include imprisonment, disappearances, bombings, and murders in nations with no freedom of the press, such as Cuba, Syria, Iran, China, and Vietnam. They cover the enormous risk to life endured by journalists in Mexico. Journalists in America are not losing their lives, as their international counterparts do on an all-too frequent basis; however, the gap between how free we believe our press to be, and how free it actually is, is far too wide.