A new poll from Freedom House—an independent watchdog organization—has found that press freedoms around the world continued to erode in 2009, and the trend has not spared the United States.
Among Western democracies Italy and the UK have been singled out for harshest criticism, the latter for its expansive libel laws that can be used to stifle critics. This has led to what observers call "libel tourism," whereby plaintiffs sue foreigners, including Americans, in British courts.
The organization also stated that the United States lacked adequate Federal protection-of-sources legislation, and media diversity was threatened by the news industry’s economic troubles.
In a related development, The National Press Club (NPC) urged the U.S. Congress to enact legislation that would discourage foreign lawsuits that limit American authors’ and journalists’ First Amendment rights.
According to the NPC, the legislation in Congress discourages the practice by making it clear that foreign libel judgments must meet American defamation standards to be recognized in the U.S.
"There is no right more precious to journalists than the ability to write and speak freely," said club president Alan Bjerga. "Congress must enact legislation that protects First Amendment rights and tells the world ‘libel tourism’ is wrong."