- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008


The first of two editorials.

The somewhat surprising annual report on press freedoms released this week by Reporters Without Borders, a France-based media watchdog group, pinpoints troubled spots around the globe in 2007 where the most basic freedoms of speech and expression are severely lacking.

Within the Western Hemisphere, the United States ranks below Canada when it comes to our commitment to free speech. According to Reporters Without Borders, the United States maintained a “satisfactory situation” while Canada was a “good situation.” Certainly Canada has its own shortfalls (the persecution of Mark Steyn, a writer who condemns radical Islamic jihadism, is one example), but the United States appears to have more.

While some positive steps occurred in 2007, such as House passage of a bill that would protect journalists’ sources and a law signed in December by President Bush strengthening the Freedom of Information Act, there were also troubling events. Chiefly perhaps is the murder of Chauncey Bailey, editor of the weekly Oakland Post. Mr. Bailey was gunned down in August, and a 19-year-old associate of Your Black Muslim Bakery, which Mr. Bailey was investigating for its possible connections to organized crime, faces charges in the killing. Mr. Bailey is believed to be the first American journalist since 1975 to be killed in the United States for his work.

This year so far, we see outlandish proposals from the likes of Los Angeles City Council member Dennis Zine, who wants to create anti-paparazzi “safety zones” that would ban reporters and photographers from approaching celebrities.

Elsewhere in the West, Cuba received the worst-possible ranking, the labeling of a “very serious situation.”

Mexico and Colombia were each labeled a “difficult situation” because of their governments’ antagonism toward media. In Mexico, two journalists were killed and three disappeared, and some local authorities worked with organized crime to persecute reporters. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has seen fewer journalists killed under his rule, though six journalists were forced to flee the country in 2007.

Reporters Without Borders called for “new means of pressure and forms of action… to destabilize the enemies of press freedom, expose their weaknesses and defeat them.” We echo that call.

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