And no, the main reason for the drop isn’t, say, FOIA crackdowns by local governments. Or even the difficulty of getting press credentials in certain government buildings. Instead, Reporters Without Borders places the blame directly on the trial and conviction of Chelsea Manning, the government’s attempts to round up National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the seizure of the phone records of the Associated Press, the government’s insistence that New York Times reporter James Risen testify in a leak case and the charges against freelance journalist Barrett Brown in connection with an investigation of hacking.
Britain’s ranking dropped three places, thanks in part to its association with the United States. The report dinged the U.K. for the “disgraceful pressure” that it placed on the Guardian regarding Snowden’s information and for having detained David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald’s partner. “Both the US and UK authorities seem obsessed with hunting down whistleblowers instead of adopting legislation to rein in abusive surveillance practices that negate privacy, a democratic value cherished in both countries,” notes the report.
For those interested in how the U.S. ranking has fared in the Obama years, have a look:
2009: 20th (up from 36th in 2008)
Reporters Without Borders reaches these rankings through a methodology whose understanding requires a great deal of education. Have a look at this stuff: