Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is pleased to announce the launch of its U.S. State Press Freedom Index, a collaboration with the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI). This new project, an important tool before the 2024 presidential election, will rate the press freedom records of all U.S. states and territories based on information gathered from working journalists and media experts around the country.

Like RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, which uses quantitative and qualitative research to rank 180 countries and territories every year, the U.S. State Press Freedom Index, led by RSF USA, will assign each state a rating.

The steering committee for this project will formulate a survey for local media employees to complete. The questionnaire will take into account existing laws to protect journalists, attacks on or harassment of media, restrictions on access to public information and recent incidents, in addition to other pertinent factors to make the ratings current and actionable for journalists.

“RSF’s World Press Freedom Index is an invaluable tool for understanding the state of press freedom around the world. Building on that, we wanted to dive deeper into the nuances of the United States. Depending on where you live in the U.S., your experience as a journalist or a news consumer could be wildly different. We expect this new project to outline just how big those differences are and provide a critical resource for journalists, policymakers, and anyone concerned with American press freedom.

Clayton Weimers
RSF USA Executive Director

“RJI is excited to embark upon this collaboration with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to bring a new vital resource to journalists working and living in the United States. RJI designs all of our resources to be actionable, useful and address a current need for journalists – which made this project a perfect fit for a partnership. We hope this resource helps journalists across the country access pivotal information to help them stay safe and aware while serving their communities.

Kat Duncan
Director of Innovation at the Reynolds Journalism Institute

Barriers in the country once considered a model for freedom of expression

The State Index comes as there is a visible shift in American sentiment towards the field of journalism, in a country where two working journalists were killed in the U.S. – Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German and Spectrum News 13 reporter Dylan Lyons

Many of the underlying, chronic issues impacting journalists in the U.S. remain unaddressed by the authorities – including the disappearance of local news, the polarization of the media or the weakening of journalism and democracy caused by digital platforms and social networks.

More than a dozen states and communities in the U.S. have proposed or enacted laws to limit journalists’ access to public spaces, including barring them from legislative meetings and preventing them from recording the police. This includes several major candidates for the 2024 presidential election. Former President Trump reportedly held discussions with advisors about how to circumvent the First Amendment and jail journalists during a potential second term in office. Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has backed several state initiatives to crack down on the media and has explicitly called for New York Times v. Sullivan to be overturned.

RSF is looking for journalists to join in the project from all 50 states and U.S. territories to serve as local respondents on press freedom. If you are interested in being a part of this project, please fill out this form.

The United States is ranked 45th according to the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2022.

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