The UK has slipped three places in the global press freedom index to 33rd place because of the UK government’s “harassment” of the Guardian newspaper over the Edward Snowden leaks.
The list, compiled by international watchdog Reporters Without Borders, saw the UK drop as a result of the country “distinguishing itself by its harassment of the Guardian” following the NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
After the Guardian began publishing information gathered from former NSA contractor Snowden, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, David Miranda, was detained for nearly nine hours at Heathrow airport under the UK Terrorism Act, prompting an outcry and allegations of government intimidation. In addition, Scotland Yard warned last year that journalists at the title could face years in prison if they were arrested under the Terrorism Act.
Earlier this month, WAN-IFRA sent its first ever UK press freedom mission following the treatment of the Guardian, as well as concerns about the UK government's Royal Charter legislation on press regulation.
The organisation said: “The hunt for leaks and whistleblowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world’s leading power.”
The United States fell by a more substantial 13 places to 46th as a result of its own handling of the Snowden leaks, as well as the imprisonment of WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Propping up the bottom of the list was Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea, while areas of turmoil such as Syria and the Central African Republic were highlighted as examples of the threat to press freedoms during conflict.