Civil Liberties News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Civil Liberties News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of civil liberties news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
Joseph Rivers ... pulled together $16,000 in seed money to fulfill a lifetime dream of starting a music video company. Last month, Rivers took the first step in that voyage [by] boarding an Amtrak train headed for Los Angeles. He never made it. A DEA agent boarded the train at the Albuquerque Amtrak station and began asking various passengers, including Rivers, where they were going and why. When Rivers replied that he was headed to LA to make a music video, the agent asked to search his bags. Rivers complied. The agent found Rivers's cash, still in a bank envelope. He explained why he had it. The agents didn't believe him. Rivers let them call his mother back home to corroborate the story. They didn't believe her, either. The agents found nothing in Rivers's belongings that indicated that he was involved with the drug trade. They didn't arrest him or charge him with a crime. But they took his cash anyway, every last cent, under the authority of the Justice Department's civil asset forfeiture program. Rivers says he suspects he may have been singled out for a search because he was the only black person on that part of the train. According to a Washington Post investigation last year ... asset forfeiture is lucrative. In fiscal year 2014 Justice Department agencies made a total of $3.9 billion in civil asset seizures, versus only $679 million in criminal asset seizures. Asset forfeitures have more than doubled during President Obama's tenure.
Note: Read a New York Times article on this program which allows law enforcement agencies to seize money with impunity. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
We learned recently from Paris that the Western world is deeply and passionately committed to free expression and ready to march and fight against attempts to suppress it. That’s a really good thing, since there are all sorts of severe suppression efforts underway in the West — perpetrated not by The Terrorists but by the Western politicians claiming to fight them. One of the most alarming examples comes, not at all surprisingly, from the U.K. government, which is currently agitating for new counterterrorism powers, “including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalize young people.” Advocating any ideas or working for any political outcomes regarded by British politicians as “extremist” will not only be a crime, but can be physically banned in advance. Prime Minister David Cameron unleashed this Orwellian decree to explain why new Thought Police powers are needed: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” It’s not enough for British subjects merely to “obey the law”; they must refrain from believing in or expressing ideas which Her Majesty’s Government dislikes. Threats to free speech can come from lots of places. But right now, the greatest threat by far in the West to ideals of free expression is coming not from radical Muslims, but from the very Western governments claiming to fight them.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
The FBI breached its own internal rules when it spied on campaigners against the Keystone XL pipeline, failing to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened files on individuals protesting against the construction of the pipeline in Texas. Internal agency documents show for the first time how FBI agents have been closely monitoring anti-Keystone activists, in violation of guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming unduly involved in sensitive political issues. The hugely contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which is awaiting approval from the Obama administration, would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast. It has been strongly opposed for years by a coalition of environmental groups ... who have been monitored by federal law enforcement agencies. Mike German, a former FBI agent ... said [the documents] indicated the agency had opened a category of investigation that is known in agency parlance as an “assessment”. Introduced as part of an expansion of FBI powers after 9/11, assessments allow agents to open intrusive investigations into individuals or groups, even if they have no reason to believe they are breaking the law. German ... said the documents also raised questions over collusion between law enforcement and TransCanada. “These documents suggest the FBI interprets its national security mandate as protecting private industry from political criticism,” he said.
Chicago's leaders took a step Wednesday typically reserved for nations trying to make amends for slavery or genocide, agreeing to pay $5.5 million in reparations to the mostly African-American victims of the city's notorious police torture scandal and to teach schoolchildren about one of the most shameful chapters of Chicago's history. Chicago has already spent more than $100 million settling and losing lawsuits related to the torture of suspects by detectives under the command of disgraced former police commander Jon Burge from the 1970s through the early 1990s. The city council's backing of the new ordinance marks the first time a U.S. city has awarded survivors of racially motivated police torture the reparations they are due under international law, according to Amnesty International. "It is a powerful word and it was meant to be a powerful word. That was intentional," Alderman Joe Moore said of the decision to describe it as reparations. "This stain cannot be removed from our city's history, but it can be used as a lesson in what not to do," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who stressed that Chicago had to do more than just pay the victims if it is to really get beyond this stain on its history.
Note: Jon Burge tortured false confessions out of as many as 120 prisoners, and according to the Chicago Reader, may have learned how to do this while serving as a soldier in Vietnam. Chicago police maintain hidden interrogation sites where brutal treatment of suspects is used to obtain criminal confessions. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about civil liberties and government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Guantánamo Diary ... in which Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi tells of his odyssey through overseas prisons and his torture and abuse by the US and its counterterrorism allies, is pockmarked with redactions left by military censors. The diary was finally published last week. Slahi, a 44-year-old Mauritanian educated in Germany, was rendered by the CIA to prison in Jordan in late 2001, then held by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. The U.S. has never charged him with a crime. By the time the editor Larry Siems got hold of the manuscript in 2012, volumes of information about Slahi’s case had come into the public record. In 2006, the government released transcripts from hearings evaluating prisoners’ detention status, Slahi’s among them. Reports from the Justice Department and the Senate Armed Services Committee detailed his interrogation. Siems was able to cross-reference these materials to establish the chronology of Slahi’s narrative, in which all dates have been redacted. Journalists have not been allowed to speak directly to current detainees. For Larry Siems, censorship is at the core of Slahi’s story, and while the redactions sometimes impede his narrative, they serve a literary function as well. “Secrecy was imposed in order for abuse to happen, and then more secrecy was imposed in order to cover it up,” said Siems. “The redactions are like the fingerprints of that longstanding censorship regime.”
Note: Despite U.S. officials acknowledging that many Guantanamo detainees pose no real threat to society, prisoners like Slahi continue to be detained as part of the ineffective but profitable war on terror.
Elite service members from four branches of the U.S. military will launch an operation this summer in which they will operate covertly among the U.S. public and travel from state to state in military aircraft. Texas, Utah and a section of southern California are labelled as hostile territory, and New Mexico isn’t much friendlier. That’s the scheme for Jade Helm 15, a new Special Operations exercise that runs from July 15 to Sept. 15. Army Special Operations Command announced it last week, saying the size and scope of the mission sets it apart from many other training exercises. The exercise has prompted widespread conspiracy theories that the United States is preparing to hatch martial law. In particular, some have expressed alarm about this map, which outlines events for the exercise in unclassified documents posted online last week. The Washington Post verified them to be legitimate by speaking to Army sources. They appear to have been prepared for local authorities. It’s also worth noting that the military has routinely launched exercises in the past in which regions of the United States are identified as hostile for the purpose of training.
Note: This Washington Post article is clearly playing down some important facts and developments. Why is the US military spending so much time and money preparing for scenarios where US soil and citizens are considered enemies? Read and educate yourself with this excellent article on Operation Jade Helm 15, one in a string of US exercises planning for mass civilian arrests under a variety of scenarios.
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions. The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.
As the Missouri National Guard prepared to deploy to help quell riots in Ferguson, Missouri ... the guard used highly militarized words such as "enemy forces" and "adversaries" to refer to protesters, according to documents obtained by CNN. The National Guard's language, contained in internal mission briefings obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, is intensifying the concerns of some who objected to the police officers' actions ... after the August 9 shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by city police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson in the case. "It's disturbing when you have what amounts to American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy," said Antonio French, an alderman in St. Louis. The documents reveal that the Missouri guard was especially concerned that "adversaries" might use phone apps and police scanners to expose operational security. A document titled "Operation Show-Me Protection II," which outlines the Missouri National Guard's mission in Ferguson, listed players on the ground deemed "Friendly Forces" and "Enemy Forces." Among groups characterized as hate groups were ... "General Protesters." In addition to analyzing the threat general protesters could pose to soldiers, the National Guard also briefed its commanders on their intelligence capabilities so they could "deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri National Guard vulnerabilities," the mission set states.
Note: The Pentagon's systematic militarization of domestic police forces is well-reported. Now we learn that the National Guard is trained to treat protesters like enemy troops. What happens to civil liberties when civil society is viewed by authorities as a battle-front?
Whenever Chicago Police commander Jon Burge needed a confession, he would walk into the interrogation room and set down a little black box, his alleged victims would later tell prosecutors. The box had two wires and a crank. Burge ... would attach one wire to the suspect’s handcuffed ankles and the other to his manacled hands. Then [he] would place a plastic bag over the suspect’s head. Finally, he would crank his little black box and listen to the screams of pain as electricity coursed through the suspect’s body. As many as 120 African-American men on Chicago’s South Side ... were allegedly tortured by Burge between 1972 and 1991. On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the establishment of a $5.5 million fund for these victims. Some of the men spent years on Illinois’s death row because of confessions allegedly obtained by Burge under duress. In 2003, Governor George Ryan pardoned four men on death row who claimed to have been tortured by Burge, [whom] the Chicago Police Board voted to fire [in 1993] for his alleged torture activities. [He] was allowed to keep his $4,000 per month pension. In 2002, Cook County appointed [a special prosecutor] to investigate Burge’s conduct. The investigation took four years and cost $7 million, but the 300-page report didn’t recommend bringing any charges against the former cop. The statute of limitations for the alleged crimes had expired, Egan argued.
Note: According to the Chicago Reader, Burge may have learned how to torture prisoners while serving as a soldier in Vietnam. Chicago police maintain hidden interrogation sites where brutal treatment of suspects is used to obtain criminal confessions. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about civil liberties and government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Human rights campaigners have prepared a federal lawsuit aiming to permanently shut down the bulk collection of billions of US phone records – not, this time, by the National Security Agency, but by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The program ... served as a template for the NSA’s gigantic and ongoing bulk surveillance of US phone data after 9/11. The revelation of mass phone-records collection in the so-called “war on drugs” raises new questions about whether the Obama administration or its successors believe US security agencies continue to have legal leeway for warrantless bulk surveillance on American citizens. Starting in 1992, the so-called “USTO” effort operated without judicial approval, despite the US constitution’s warrant requirement. Attorney general Eric Holder ended USTO in September 2013 out of fear of scandal following Snowden’s disclosures. While Snowden did not expose USTO, several NSA programs he has exposed referenced the DEA as an NSA partner, giving the DEA another secret pathway to massive amounts of US communications records. The warrantless bulk records collection provides prosecutors the ability to enter into evidence incriminating material that could otherwise be thrown out of court, [and] has not stopped the upward growth of domestic narcotics consumption.
Note: In order to deny due process to people accused of crimes, the DEA's Special Operations Division constructs lies about the origins of data obtained from warrantless mass surveillance. Award-winning journalists have presented powerful evidence of direct DEA and CIA involvement in and support of drug running and drug cartels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
More than 750 plaintiffs are suing the Johns Hopkins Hospital System Corp. over its role in a series of medical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and 1950s during which subjects were infected with venereal diseases. The lawsuit in Baltimore seeks $1 billion in damages for individuals, spouses and children of people infected with syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases through a U.S. government program between 1945 and 1956. The suit claims Johns Hopkins officials had "substantial influence" over the studies, controlling some advisory panels, and were involved in planning and authorizing the experiments. A Hopkins spokesperson ... confirmed that faculty members took part in reviewing funding applications, but said this did not warrant a lawsuit against the medical center. The statement expressed "profound sympathy for individuals and families impacted by the deplorable 1940s syphilis study conducted by the U.S. Government in Guatemala," and noted that the ethical standards for conducting medical research have changed significantly in the decades since then. It's the latest in a series of lawsuits over the studies. A federal judge in 2012 dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. government involving the same study.
Note: Explore an excellent list of dozens of studies over the years in which humans were used unknowingly as guinea pigs in clear breach of ethical standards. Links are provided for verification of each study. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in the medical industry and in government.
An undercover police unit that monitored political groups over 40 years gathered intelligence on members of at least five trade unions, a whistleblower has revealed. Peter Francis, who spent four years undercover infiltrating political activists, has named five trade unions whose members he spied on: Unison, the Fire Brigades Union, Communication Workers Union, National Union of Teachers, and the National Union of Students. Francis, who has become a whistleblower in recent years ... was part of the covert Metropolitan police unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), that monitored hundreds of political groups between 1968 and 2008. Francis gave a statement to a packed meeting in Parliament that marked the launch of a new book about the blacklisting of thousands of workers by multi-national construction firms. This month, the Daily Mirror revealed that one of the undercover officers in the SDS, Mark Jenner, posed as a joiner and was a member of the construction workers union, UCATT, for three years. Jenner’s involvement in trade unions is detailed here by the Undercover Research Group, a resource on covert infiltration of political groups. It describes how he attended meetings of UCATT and other unions, regularly went on pickets and ferried trade unionists to demonstrations. In his statement ... Francis said, ”Let me state very clearly that Mark Jenner was 100% one of my fellow undercover SDS police officers deployed alongside me in the 1990s.”
Note: While undercover, Mark Jenner had a four-year relationship with a woman who did not know his real identity. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology. Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone. “It’s scanning the area. What is the government doing with that information?” said Linda Lye, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which in 2013 sued the Justice Department to force it to disclose more about the technology. In November, in a response to the lawsuit, the government said it had asked the courts to allow the technology to capture content, not just identify subscriber location.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of privacy rights from reliable major media sources.
When Yonas Fikre stepped off a luxury private jet at Portland airport last month, the only passenger on a $200,000 flight from Sweden, he braced for the worst. The 36-year-old Eritrean-born American was finally back in Portland at the end of a five-year odyssey that began with a simple business trip but landed him in an Arab prison where he alleges he was tortured at the behest of US anti-terrorism officials because he refused to become an informant at his mosque in Oregon. Fikre is suing the FBI, two of its agents and other American officials for allegedly putting him on the US’s no-fly list – a roster of suspected terrorists barred from taking commercial flights – to pressure him to collaborate. When that failed, the lawsuit said, the FBI had him arrested, interrogated and tortured for 106 days in the United Arab Emirates. As shocking as the claims are, they are not the first to emanate from worshippers at Fikre’s mosque in Portland, where at least nine members have been barred from flying by the US authorities. “The no-fly list gives the FBI an extrajudicial tool to coerce Muslims to become informants,” said Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer who represents other clients on the list. “There’s definitely a cluster of cases like this at the FBI’s Portland office. Fikre has not been charged with any terrorism related crimes or even questioned as a potential threat on his return to the US. He remains on the no-fly list.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing articles about questionable intelligence agency practices from reliable sources.
The Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., released a report on the history of lynchings in the United States. The authors of the report compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. Next comes the process of selecting lynching sites where the organization plans to erect markers and memorials, which will involve significant fund-raising, negotiations with distrustful landowners and, almost undoubtedly, intense controversy. The process is intended, [Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan] Stevenson said, to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way. “Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” Mr. Stevenson said, arguing that many participants in the great migration from the South should be thought of as refugees fleeing terrorism rather than people simply seeking work. The lynching report is part of a longer project Mr. Stevenson began several years ago. One phase involved the erection of historical markers about the extensive slave markets in Montgomery. The city and state governments were not welcoming of the markers, despite the abundance of Civil War and civil rights movement memorials in Montgomery, but Mr. Stevenson is planning to do the same thing elsewhere.
Note: See just how widespread historic racial violence was on this interactive map of lynchings developed from the Equal Justice Initiative report. Then read about the black policeman who has been subjected to a "stop and frisk" search 30 times. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound. The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Police practices at Homan Square [allegedly] include: Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases; Beating by police, resulting in head wounds; Shackling for prolonged periods; Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility; Holding people [as young as 15] without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours. Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Jacob Church learned about Homan Square the hard way. On May 16 2012, he and 11 others were taken there after police infiltrated their protest against the Nato summit. After serving two and a half years in prison, Church ... and his co-defendants were found not guilty in 2014 of terrorism-related offenses. Tracy Siska, a criminologist and civil-rights activist with the Chicago Justice Project, said that Homan Square, as well as the unrelated case of ex-Guantánamo interrogator and retired Chicago detective Richard Zuley, showed the lines blurring between domestic law enforcement and overseas military operations. “The real danger in allowing practices like Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they ... creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago.”
Note: Church was one of three young activists charged with 'terrorism' after police manufactured evidence against peaceful Occupy Wall St protesters in Chicago in 2012. For more, read about the increasing militarization of police in the U.S. after 9/11, or see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles.
The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the ... latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. It appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant. One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. These cases ... end up sending young people to prison for decades for “crimes” which even their sentencing judges acknowledge they never would have seriously considered, let alone committed, in the absence of FBI trickery. We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of [terrorism]. But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI? The Justice Department is aggressively pressuring U.S. allies to employ these same entrapment tactics in order to create their own terrorists, who can then be paraded around as proof of the grave threat. The FBI’s terrorism strategy — keep fear alive — drives everything they do.
Note: Human Rights Watch has documented the government manufacture of fake "terrorism" plots being used to keep fear alive in war on terror. There is even evidence that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was an F.B.I. entrapment plan gone awry. In 2012, the New York Times exposed the pattern of F.B.I. entrapment used to produce these fake "terrorism" plots. How can corrupt intelligence agencies continue to blatantly manipulate public perception like this?
The recent release of a landmark report on the history of lynching in the United States is a welcome contribution to the struggle over American collective memory. One dimension of mob violence that is often overlooked, however, is that lynchers targeted many other racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, including Native Americans, Italians, Chinese and, especially, Mexicans. Americans are largely unaware that Mexicans were frequently the targets of lynch mobs, from the mid-19th century until well into the 20th century, second only to African-Americans in the scale and scope of the crimes. From 1848 to 1928, mobs murdered thousands of Mexicans. These lynchings occurred not only in the southwestern states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, but also in states far from the border, like Nebraska and Wyoming. Some of these cases did appear in press accounts, when reporters depicted them as violent public spectacles, as they did with many lynchings of African-Americans in the South. The story of mob violence against Mexicans in the Southwest compels us to rethink the history of lynching. Southern blacks were the group most often targeted, but comparing the histories of the South and the West strengthens our understanding of mob violence in both.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
A group of top American intellectuals have volunteered to "take" the 1,000 lash sentence imposed by the Saudi government on a prominent liberal blogger. Raif Badawi ... received the sentence for insulting his country's hardline Islamic clerics. The move, which follows widespread international outrage at the sentence, is being led by Robert P. George, a leading professor at Princeton University. Professor George said: "Together with six colleagues on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, I sent a letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the US calling on the Saudi government to stop the horrific torture of Raif Badawi — an advocate of religious freedom and freedom of expression in the Saudi Kingdom. If the Saudi government refuses, we each asked to take 100 of Mr. Badawi's lashes so that we could suffer with him. The seven of us include Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Christians, Jews, and a Muslim." Mr Badawi, 31, who set up a liberal website to discuss Saudi politics in which he criticised the country’s hardline religious establishment, has been sentenced to ten years in prison as well as 1,000 lashes. So harsh is the flogging that it has to be administered in individual sessions of 50 lashes a time in order to stop the recipient dying or suffering serious injury during the process. The first bout of 50 lashes was dished out to Mr Badawi on January 9, before hundreds of spectators in a public square in front of a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The date for a second set of lashes has so far been postponed as doctors have said that Mr Badawi's injuries from the first flogging have not yet healed.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Russia, the United States, Japan and many parts of Europe lost ground last year in its ranking of global press freedoms. The rise of non-state groups, crackdowns on demonstrations, wars and economic crises provided a backdrop for a tough 2014. The Paris-based media watchdog [Reporters Without Borders] said two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed in its annual World Press Freedom index scored worse than a year earlier. Western Europe, while top-ranked, lost the most ground as a region. Three Nordic countries headed the list, but there was slippage in Italy — where Mafia and other threats weighed on journalists — and Iceland, where the relationship between the media and politicians soured. The U.S. fell three places to 49th amid a “war on information” by the Obama administration. Reporters also faced difficulty covering events like demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, where black teen Michael Brown was shot dead in August by a white police officer. Russia dropped two notches to 152nd place after passing “draconian laws” to limit freedom of information, the group said. Legislation allowing access to information helped Mongolia jump 34 spots — the highest single advance — to 54th place. China, Iran and North Korea all remained among the 10 lowest-ranked countries. The group uses seven criteria to calculate its index — measures for media independence, the diversity of opinions expressed, self-censorship, transparency, abuses and the legislative environment.
Note: For more on ongoing threats to press freedom, see concise summaries of deeply revealing media manipulation stories from reliable sources.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.