In the United States, once considered a model for press freedom and free speech, press freedom violations are increasing at a troubling rate.
While most major media outlets in the United States operate free from government interference, many popular outlets are owned by a small handful of wealthy individuals. In a diverse global media landscape, local news has declined significantly in recent years. In 2020, fearing a brutal wave of news agency executive dismissals from the Trump administration, RSF called on the US Agency for Global Media and new media executives to respect the media’s independence.
After four years of President Trump constantly denigrating the press, President Biden signaled his administration's desire to see the US reclaim its global status as a model from freedom of expression, thus reinstating regular White House and federal agency press briefings. Despite these efforts, many of the underlying, chronic issues impacting journalists remain unaddressed by the authorities – including the disappearance of local news, the polarisation of the media or the weakening of journalism and democracy caused by digital platforms and social networks.
In the US, there is ample debate around reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides that social media companies and other web hosts are not liable for content that third parties post on their platforms. The US government continues to pursue the extradition of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange to face trial on charges related to the publication of leaked classified documents in 2010. Assange remains detained on remand in the UK, impacting both countries’ press freedom records.
Economic constraints drastically impact journalists working in the US, where more than 100 local newsrooms have closed since 2020 and where the biggest US newspapers continue to lose subscriptions. Online subscription-based models have helped to offset the decline of some public news outlets, particularly radio stations, while other outlets have found ways to sustain growth through individual donations.
According to recent studies, there are unprecedented levels of distrust in the American media. The disinformation affecting American society has created an atmosphere where citizens no longer know who to trust. Online harassment, particularly towards women and minorities, is also a serious issue for journalists and can impact their quality of life and safety.
In the US, in recent years, journalists have had to work in dangerous conditions and have faced an unprecedented climate of animosity and aggression during protests, where unprovoked physical attacks occurred on clearly identified reporters. There is a troubling trend of journalists experiencing harassment, intimidation and assault in the field.