With Trump Bashing American Media, Risks America’s Media Rated “Semi-Free”

The Resistance Reports

March 9, 2017

Trump has started a war with the American media. Apart from concern that such was is risking a breach of the constitution protection, the war will also impact the level of press freedom in America. In 2016, America’s Press Freedom was rated “Free.”

America’s total score in 2016 was 21 out of 100, where a score between 0 to 30 places the country in the Free press group, 31 to 60 in the Partly Free press group  and 61 to 100 in the Not Free press group.

This means America is 10 points away from being Partly-Free. Politics accounts for 40 points of Freedom House methodology. With Trump’s war on America’s press, what will the next year score look like? Would America fall to partly-free?

In score giving to countries, Freedom House look at Legal, Political and Economic Environment.

Where on political environment, Freedom House looks at several factors, including question: “Are both local and foreign journalists able to cover the news freely in terms of harassment and physical access? (0–6 points).”

On this question, as pertaining to America, in 2017 so far, Trump has intimidated the press and physical access very restricted, & when not, mostly to friendly press. Therefore we can estimate that of this 0-6 points, in 2017 score, will be reduced.

Also on politics, Freedom House looks at, question: “Are journalists, bloggers, or media outlets subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor as a result of their reporting? (0–10 points)”

And here, the Trump family have met for example with CNN owners and in the past, journalist covering Trump, has to be protected by security people. So yes, here Trump does use extralegal intimidation and physical violence. Therefore, this 0-10 point score available in the political category, likely will be reduced also.

So 16 points from these two areas I mentioned are under risks, and likely get reduced in 2017 ranking. Again, America score is 10 points from semi-free.

In sum, America press ranking is moving closer towards “Partly Free” category.

America’s Press Freedom Score 2016

Legal Environment:

6 / 30
(0=BEST, 30=WORST)

Political Environment:

10 / 40 (↑1)
(0=BEST, 40=WORST)

Economic Environment:

5 / 30
(0=BEST, 30=WORST)

Press Freedom Score:

21 / 100 (↑1)

(0=BEST, 100=WORST)

Free, Semi-Free & Not Free Score

A country’s final score (from 0 to 100) is based on the total of the scores allotted for each question: A score of 0 to 30 places the country in the Free press group, 31 to 60 in the Partly Free press group and 61 to 100 in the Not Free press group.

Freedom House Press Freedom Index

Criteria

This study is based on universal criteria. The starting point is the smallest, most universal unit of concern: the individual. We recognize cultural differences, diverse national interests, and varying levels of economic development. Yet Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

The operative word for this index is “everyone.” All states, from the most democratic to the most authoritarian, are committed to this doctrine through the UN system. To deny that doctrine is to deny the universality of information freedom—a basic human right. We recognize that cultural distinctions or economic underdevelopment may limit the volume of news flows within a country, but these and other arguments are not acceptable explanations for outright centralized control of the content of news and information. Some poor countries allow for the exchange of diverse views, while some economically developed countries restrict content diversity. We seek to recognize press freedom wherever it exists, in poor and rich countries as well as in countries of various ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

Research and Ratings Review Process

The findings are reached after a multilayered process of analysis and evaluation by a team of regional experts and scholars. Although there is an element of subjectivity inherent in the index findings, the ratings process emphasizes intellectual rigor and balanced and unbiased judgments.

The research and ratings process involves more than 60 analysts—including members of the core research team headquartered in New York, along with outside consultants—who prepare the draft ratings and country reports. Their conclusions are reached after gathering information from professional contacts in a variety of countries, staff and consultant travel, international visitors, the findings of human rights and press freedom organizations, specialists in geographic and geopolitical areas, the reports of governments and multilateral bodies, and a variety of domestic and international news media. We would particularly like to thank the other members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) network for providing detailed and timely analyses of press freedom violations in a variety of countries worldwide on which we rely to make our judgments.

The ratings are reviewed individually and on a comparative basis in a set of six regional meetings involving analysts, advisers, and Freedom House staff. The ratings are compared with the previous year’s findings, and any major proposed numerical shifts or category changes are subjected to more intensive scrutiny. These reviews are followed by cross-regional assessments in which efforts are made to ensure comparability and consistency in the findings.

Methodology

Through the years, we have refined and expanded our methodology. Recent modifications are intended to capture changes in the news and information environment without altering the comparability of data for a given country over the 34-year span or the comparative ratings of all countries over that period.

Our examination of the level of press freedom in each country currently comprises 23 methodology questions and 132 indicators divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, the political environment, and the economic environment. For each methodology question, a lower number of points is allotted for a more free situation, while a higher number of points is allotted for a less free environment. A country’s final score (from 0 to 100) is based on the total of the scores allotted for each question: A score of 0 to 30 places the country in the Free press group; 31 to 60 in the Partly Free press group; and 61 to 100 in the Not Free press group.

The diverse nature of the methodology questions seeks to encompass the varied ways in which pressure can be placed upon the flow of information and the ability of print, broadcast, and internet-based media and journalists to operate freely and without fear of repercussions. In short, we seek to provide a picture of the entire “enabling environment” in which the media in each country operate. We also seek to assess the degree of news and information diversity available to the public in any given country, from either local or transnational sources.

The legal environment category encompasses an examination of both the laws and regulations that could influence media content and the government’s inclination to use these laws and legal institutions to restrict the media’s ability to operate. We assess the positive impact of legal and constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression; the potentially negative aspects of security legislation, the penal code, and other criminal statutes; penalties for libel and defamation; the existence of and ability to use freedom of information legislation; the independence of the judiciary and of official media regulatory bodies; registration requirements for both media outlets and journalists; and the ability of journalists’ groups to operate freely.

Under the political environment category, we evaluate the degree of political control over the content of news media. Issues examined include the editorial independence of both state-owned and privately owned outlets; access to information and sources; official censorship and self-censorship; the vibrancy of the media and the diversity of news available within each country; the ability of both foreign and local reporters to cover the news freely and without harassment; and the intimidation of journalists or bloggers by the state or other actors, including arbitrary detention and imprisonment, violent assaults, and other threats.

Our third category examines the economic environment for the media. This includes the structure of media ownership; transparency and concentration of ownership; the costs of establishing media as well as any impediments to news production and distribution; the selective withholding of advertising or subsidies by the state or other actors; the impact of corruption and bribery on content; and the extent to which the economic situation in a country impacts the development and sustainability of the media.

CHECKLIST OF METHODOLOGY QUESTIONS 2014

—Each country is ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the best and 100 being the worst.

—A combined score of 0–30 = Free, 31–60 = Partly Free, and 61–100 = Not Free.

—Under each question, a lower number of points is allotted for a more free situation, while a higher number of points is allotted for a less free environment.

—The subquestions listed are meant to provide guidance as to what sorts of issues can be addressed under each methodology question; it is not intended that the author necessarily answer each one.

—As a general guideline, the index is focused on ability to access news and information (which predominantly means print and broadcast media but can also include blogs, social media, mobile phones, and other forms of digital news dissemination) and providers of news content, which mainly refers to journalists but can also include citizen journalists and bloggers, where applicable.

 

.  Are media regulatory bodies, such as a broadcasting authority or national press or communications council, able to operate freely and independently? (0–2 points)

  • Are there explicit legal guarantees protecting the independence and autonomy of any regulatory body from either political or commercial interference?
  • Does the state or any other interest exercise undue influence over regulatory bodies through appointments or financial pressure?
  • Is the appointments process to such bodies transparent and representative of different interests, and do representatives from the media have an adequate presence on such bodies?
  • Are decisions taken by the regulatory body seen to be fair and apolitical?
  • Are efforts by journalists and media outlets to establish self-regulatory mechanisms permitted and encouraged, and viewed as a preferable alternative to state-imposed regulation?
  1. Is there freedom to become a journalist and to practice journalism, and can professional groups freely support journalists’ rights and interests? (0–4 points)
  • Are journalists required by law to be licensed and if so, is the licensing process conducted fairly and at reasonable cost?
  • Must a journalist become a member of a particular union or professional organization in order to work legally?
  • Must journalists have attended a particular school or have certain qualifications in order to practice journalism?
  • Are visas or exit permits for journalists to travel abroad delayed or denied based on the individual’s reporting or professional affiliation?
  • Are journalists’ or bloggers’ professional actions or means of communication subject to either electronic or physical surveillance with the object of interfering in their work or ascertaining their sources?
  • May journalists and editors freely join associations to protect their interests and express their professional views?
  • Are independent journalists’ organizations able to operate freely and comment on threats to or violations of press freedom?
  1. POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT (0–40 POINTS)
  1. To what extent are media outlets’ news and information content determined by the government or a particular partisan interest? (0–10 points)
  • To what degree are print and broadcast journalists subject to editorial direction or pressure from the authorities or from private owners?
  • Is media coverage excessively partisan, with the majority of print, broadcast, or internet-based outlets consistently taking either a pro- or antigovernment line?
  • Is there government editorial control of state-run media outlets?
  • Is there provision for public-service broadcasting that enjoys editorial independence?
  • Does the government attempt to influence or manipulate online content?
  • Is there opposition access to state-owned media, particularly during elections campaigns? Do outlets reflect the views of the entire political spectrum or do they provide only an official point of view?
  • Is hiring, promotion, and firing of journalists done in a nonpartisan and impartial manner? Are journalists subject to job loss because of what they write?
  1. Is access to official or unofficial sources generally controlled? (0–2 points)
  • Are the activities of government—courts, legislature, officials, records—open to the press?
  • Is there a ‘culture of secrecy’ among public officials that limits their willingness to provide information to media?
  • Do authorities hold regular press conferences or other briefings to inform the media?
  • Do media outlets have a sufficient level of access to information and is this right equally enforced for all journalists regardless of their media outlet’s editorial line?
  • Does the regime influence access to unofficial sources (parties, unions, religious groups, etc.), particularly those that provide opposition viewpoints?
  1. Is there official or unofficial censorship? (0–4 points)
  • Is there an official censorship body?
  • Are print publications or broadcast programs subject to pre- or postpublication censorship?
  • Are local print and broadcast outlets forcibly closed or taken off the air as a result of what they publish or broadcast?
  • Are there shutdowns or blocking of internet sites or blogs, or of mobile-phone networks?
  • Is access to foreign newspapers, TV or radio broadcasts, websites, or blogs censored or otherwise restricted?
  • Are certain contentious issues, such as official corruption, the role of the armed forces or the political opposition, human rights, religion, officially off-limits to the media?
  • Do authorities issue official guidelines or directives on coverage to media outlets?
  1. Do journalists practice self-censorship? (0–4 points)
  • Is there widespread self-censorship in the state-owned media? In the privately owned media?
  • Are there unspoken rules that prevent a journalist from pursuing certain stories?
  • Is there avoidance of subjects that can clearly lead to censorship or harm to the journalist or the institution?
  • Is there censorship of or excessive interference in journalists’ stories by editors or managers?
  • Are there restrictions on coverage by “gentlemen’s agreement,” club-like associations between journalists and officials, or traditions in the culture that restrict certain kinds of reporting?
  1. Do people have access to media coverage and a range of news and information that is robust and reflects a diversity of viewpoints? (0–4 points)
  • Does the public have access to a diverse selection of print, broadcast, and internet-based sources of information that represent a range of political and social viewpoints?
  • Are people able to access a range of local and international news sources despite efforts to restrict the flow of information?
  • Do media outlets represent diverse interests within society, for example through community radio or other locally focused news content?
  • Do providers of news content cover political developments and provide scrutiny of government policies or actions by other powerful societal actors?
  • Is there a tradition of vibrant coverage of potentially sensitive issues?
  • Do journalists or bloggers pursue investigative news stories on issues such as corruption by the government or other powerful societal actors?
  • NOTE: When scoring this question, please take into account the level of penetration of different types of media, e.g. print, broadcast, internet, foreign.
  1. Are both local and foreign journalists able to cover the news freely in terms of harassment and physical access? (0–6 points)
  • To what extent are journalists harassed or attacked while attempting to cover the news?
  • Are certain geographical areas of the country off-limits to journalists?
  • Does a war, insurgency, or similar situation in a country inhibit the operation of media?
  • Do authorities require journalists working in danger zones to be “embedded”?
  • Is there surveillance of foreign journalists working in the country?
  • Are foreign journalists inhibited or barred by the need to secure visas or permits to report or to travel within the country?
  • Are foreign journalists deported for reporting that challenges the regime or other powerful interests?
  1. Are journalists, bloggers, or media outlets subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor as a result of their reporting? (0–10 points)
  • Are journalists or bloggers subject to murder, injury, harassment, threats, abduction, expulsion, arbitrary arrest and illegal detention, or torture, as a result of their professional activities?
  • Do armed militias, organized crime, insurgent groups, political or religious extremists, or other organizations regularly target journalists?
  • Have journalists fled the country or gone into hiding or exile to avoid such repercussions?
  • Do journalists under threat from nonstate actors receive adequate protection from state authorities?
  • Have media companies been targeted for physical attack or for the confiscation or destruction of property?
  • Are there technical attacks (such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks) on news and information websites or key online platforms for information exchange?
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