Two different pictures of US press freedom

Weapons of Mass DeceptionTrevor Cook writes in Corporate Engagement about a new study from World Economic Forum. The study ranks individual countries based on competetiveness and the Nordic countries are topping the tables along with USA.

As noted, the EU lags behind the US in the overall rankings, only Finland (ranked first) is ahead of the US. When you dig deeper into the different factors the countries are ranked on, Finland is number 1 in “Capacity for innovation”, with Sweden second. Denmark ranked first regarding “Freedom of the press”, Sweden second and the US ranked 7. US is number 1 in “Extent of Marketing” and Sweden is second in “Extent of branding”.

The question about press freedom in the US is quite interesting. As I wrote in a previous post, the Swedish Journalist Association has protested against the treatment of foreign journalists in the US, and Jay Rosen has a brilliant piece about how George W. Bush manouvres to dismantle the power of media by claiming that media no longer represent the public. I am also almost done reading the brilliant book Weapons of Mass Deception from PR Watch about the use of propaganda in the war against Iraq. It is an excellent overview of war time manipulation, not only of the public, but also of media. I hope to come back with more thoughts on this book.

Could it be that the constitutional rights to press freedom in the US are world class but that the authorities have ways to work around that? I don’t have enough insight to tell. If you take a look at the views of Reporters Without Borders, the picture isn’t as bright. They survey the opinions of journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists about respect for the freedom of the press, and they place the US on 31st place, just after Benin and Timor-Leste:

Special situation of the United States and Israel The ranking distinguishes behaviour at home and abroad in the cases of the United States and Israel. They are ranked in 31st and 44th positions respectively as regards respect for freedom of expression on their own territory, but they fall to the 135th and 146th positions as regards behaviour beyond their borders.

The Israeli army’s repeated abuses against journalists in the occupied territories and the US army’s responsibility in the death of several reporters during the war in Iraq constitute unacceptable behaviour by two nations that never stop stressing their commitment to freedom of expression.

The two rankings paints two totally different pictures about press freedom in the US. No matter who you choose to believe, bear in mind that the WEF members represent among other things the world’s 1,000 leading companies and they might just find it a tad more difficult to critize the world’s largest economy.