Tuesday, July 8 2014, 01:01 PM CDT
Tuesday Talk: First Amendment Rights
It's spelled out in the First Amendment of the Constitution. A free press is believed to be at the core of our democracy, but as our national correspondent Kristine Frazao tells us, recent rankings of press freedoms of countries around the world have the U.S. nowhere near the top.
The role of a free press is to hold elected leaders accountable, but what happens when some of the press freedoms are stifled?
Scroll through the list of the countries with the freest presses compiled by Reporters Without Borders and you will have to scroll a while to find the U.S. The nation ranks at number 46.
Craig Aaron, President and CEO of Free Press, says the U.S. is sliding in the wrong direction.
"A country that has been in many ways a beacon of press freedom, having a First Amendment, having press freedom literally baked into our constitution, I think it's especially concerning," Aaron said.
The job of an investigative reporter is often to get information that the government does not want you to know. And the reason for the low rankings, especially in the last few years, have to do with increased crackdowns on journalists and their sources.
A few examples: Fox News reporter James Rosen was named a co-conspirator in a leak case by the Department of Justice simply for reporting what he was told.
We now know the DOJ also secretly taped the phone lines of some reporters at the Associated Press.
And New York Times reporter James Risen now faces jail time for refusing to identify a confidential source.
"We've seen people stepping forward, talking to reporters when they see wrongdoing in the agencies where they are and this administration in particular going after whistleblowers very aggressively and raising threats to the journalists who are on the story," Aaron said.
Inside Washington, D.C.'s Newseum, the United States is still green for free, but nowhere near the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, which are viewed to have the world's most free presses -- A concern for some visitors to the Newseum.
When asked if they were surprised at the U.S.' ranking, many patrons at the newseum responded yes.
Most people believe a thriving democracy rests on a well-informed citizenry. But when those in charge of doing the informing are silenced, press freedom advocates say democracy may be threatened.