United States | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

United States

United States

Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status


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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and this right is generally respected. Nevertheless, in July, a publisher and an editor in Kansas were convicted of criminal libel, a rarity in the United States although 19 states permit such prosecution. Official restrictions on domestic press coverage, begun after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, were expanded in preparation for U.S. military action in Iraq. The U.S. attorney general placed further limits on information accessible under the Freedom of Information Act, which substantially increased the volume of classified government information. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was empowered to conduct surveillance on the Internet without a court order. While some journalists complained about heightened secrecy, others accepted war-related restrictions but feared that such restrictions also hid normal political and economic information unrelated to military needs. In a policy reversal, however, the Defense Department began training journalists to accompany frontline troops. During past military campaigns, the press was either banned from field coverage or closely "minded" by the military. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began considering further deregulation of broadcast media. For two decades, mergers and buyouts have steadily reduced the number of persons controlling the content of large media networks. The FCC's latest action could further diminish diversity by allowing more broadcast outlets to be linked to print media in the same city or region.