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Preston Clive in Preston Clive - THE IRRITATED AMERICAN, Wielding The Digital Hatchet,

Our Sorta, Kinda, Somewhat Free Free-Press

"So anyhow, yeah, I'm in Finland now, and it's pretty cool here..."

BY PRESTON CLIVE

"O'er the la-and of the free....

..and the ho-ome, of the-e-e,

Bra-a-ave."

(You now can remove your hand from your heart and put your cap back on.)

Press group Reporters Without Borders has released their annual World Free Press Freedom Index, this time for 2015 .  .  .  and, my fellow Americans, I am loathe to admit that the facts are not exactly sounding like the sweet music to our ears as would be expected for us here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

Out of 180 countries that the report measures according to the free flow of information, protection of confidential sources, access to information and other factors which clearly delineate whether or not a country truly respects the independence and freedom of the organs of its press to do their job of news-gathering and reporting, the USA is nowhere near the top. The organization highly prizes the ability of a reporter or content-deliverer to proovide to the public the results of investigative pieces where assets and sources feel comfortable to speak anonymously on deep or shallow background without fear of repercussion and retribution . . . and worst of all exposure.

Of course this must be contrasted with flat out lawbreaking; patriotic whistle-blowing is a different thing entirely. There is a difference between 

1) a source speaking on deep background about classified governmental actions that break or stretch existing law to the degree whereby a serious abuse is clearly taking place, and will not be corrected unless somebody takes the first step of speaking out, and

2) a source speaking on deep background about a classified, legal government program or military action, and does so for purely personal agenda and belief, of smear and vengeance.

The first example would be Mark Felt acting as Deep Throat in the Watergate investigation by Bradlee's Washington Post, to blow the whistle on a terrible abuse of Presidential power. The second would be the case of Defense Department Lawrence Franklin, who passed classified information to a couple of pro-Israel lobbyists about the dispositions of Iran .  .  . obviously an adversary of Israel, but it is not up to a DOD regular to privately determine policy and the sharing of intelligence in his off duty civilian life. 

The USA has slid down on the list three positions versus 2014-- we are now down to Number 49 on the list. Almost a full third of the way down! 

Not very nice for the self-proclaimed Land of the Free. One of the elements wearing down the USA's representation as a place where the free exchange of information goes on unabated is the fact that the Obama administration is pursuing James Risen, pushing hard for him to reveal his sources; and of course the push against Wiki-Leaks. Bradley (or Chelsea, depending on how you choose to address the trans-gender Manning) Manning, known for his/her passing of an enormous number of classified documents to Wikileaks is already convicted and serving time prior to going on trial for additional, lesser charges.

There have been a number of press-leak prosecutions over the pass few years, from Stephen Kim (the DOD analyst who passed secrets about US Intel on North Korea to Fox News, charged under the Espionage Act), Shamai Leibowitz (FBI Translator who divulged what he had heard during his translating duties on his blog), and others. 

Number one through five are either Scandinavian or Northern European. Check this out:

1 Finland. 

2 Norway 

3 Denmark 

4 Netherlands 

5 Sweden 

What are the specifically proclaimed parameters of measure? Let's go to the source itself, and read the opening paragraph of this year's presentation:

The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks the performance of 180 countries according to a range of criteria that include media pluralism and independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.

So now that we've gone through the best (North Europe), and the mediocre (USA), who are the real baddies who are making the lives of reporters miserable by standing in the way of the free flow of legal information and allowing the persons of the press to be endangered in the pursuit of their occupations? Here are the bottom ten, the press Roll of Shame.

170 Djibouti 

171 Lao People's Democratic Republic 

172 Somalia  

173 Islamic Republic of Iran 

174 Sudan 

175 Vietnam 

176 China 

177 Syrian Arab Republic 

178 Turkmenistan 

179 Democratic People's Republic of Korea 

180 Eritrea 

If you'd like to go over the entire list from top to bottom, here it is.

If you're a reporter, and you were going to go to Djibouti to interview an official from Somalia, to then ask him to give a call to a friend of his in the back country of Iran and ask if you could travel there to interview him; and then from there you were aiming to jump over to North Korea for a two part interview with the travel minister who you then planned to ask for passage to Eritrea on his national airline .  .  .  well, then .  .  .  it just might be time to put that one on back burner. 

For a decade or two.

Preston Clive

Friday the 13th, 2015***