United States | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

United States

United States

Freedom of the Press 2002

2002 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


The September 11 terrorist attacks instantly put American journalism on a wartime footing. First, there was round-the-clock crisis reporting and analysis from rescue operations at the devastated zones. Then, with President Bush's declaration of war on terrorism came extensive news of fighting in Afghanistan. Critics accused the government of controlling the news by keeping journalists away from frontline operations at both "ground zero" in New York and in Afghanistan. As fronts stabilized, hundreds of journalists were permitted to cover advancing Afghan and American soldiers. Indeed, several journalists were killed covering the action. A rapidly passed antiterrorism law was challenged for permitting electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists, among other detention and judicial controls. These acts, the war spirit, and the resurgent patriotism were regarded by some as hindering the protection of dissent in the news media. There were unobstructed anti-war demonstrations on some college campuses. Several prominent intellectuals writing in major publications attributed the destruction of the World Trade Center towers partially to "payback" for American foreign policies. Such comments were not restricted. U.S. officials did attempt unsuccessfully to restrain the Al-Jazeera television station from carrying unedited attacks on America by Osama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist network. U.S. officials later went on Al-Jazeera to broadcast American views. When State Department officials prevented the Voice of America (VOA) from carrying an interview with the leader of the Taliban, journalists and others protested and the VOA broadcast the interview. Several domestic incidents protested by journalists earlier in the year include the five-month incarceration of a writer in a Texas jail for defying a court order to provide notes and files to help police in a murder investigation. In August, a U.S. Attorney notified the Associated Press it had secured telephone records of an AP reporter to determine his source in a case involving leaked confidential Justice Department information.