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If blame is to be assigned for journalists’ arrests, a large share of it should go to the OWS protesters themselves. Whether through acts of outright violence, such as throwing glass bottles and bags of garbage and other projectiles at police, or by refusing to vacate a privately owned public park despite repeated orders to do so, the OWS protestors provoked a police response. It is not to excuse the more heavy-handed tactics to which police resorted to point out that they were forced to act by the violent and criminal conduct of OWS protestors.
Just as evicting the protestors from a privately owned park did not constitute suppression of free speech, neither do the collateral arrests of journalists covering the OWS protests signal growing curtailment of press freedom in the U.S. Considering that journalists are purposely and aggressively targeted by governments across the world, it is particularly outrageous for RWB to equate the OWS arrests with persecution of the press. To suggest that the active targeting and murder of journalists in Russia (to take one example of many) and the incidental arrests of journalists in a police roundup of violent rioters in the U.S. are somehow commensurate in their impact on press freedom is moral equivalence on a gross and indefensible scale.
With press freedom genuinely imperiled across the world, RWB’s downgrade of the U.S. seems to be little more than an attention-grabbing stunt. In the final analysis, RWB’s report highlights a decline not of the freedom of the press but of its seriousness. Those who kept up with the media’s cheerleading coverage of OWS would not have failed to notice the trend.
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