This article was originally published in The Atlantic.
While much of the recent attention focused on journalism has been about how to make this venerable trade financially viable in the digital age, as 2013 draws to a close, news gathering faces challenges that money cannot resolve. Governments around the globe are moving seriously to restrict journalism. Here, in brief, are observations about how three of the most powerful nations have been putting pressure on the media.
In China, the attempted intimidation of foreign correspondents is at a level unprecedented in the country’s decades-long ascension to superpower status. In Russia, Vladimir Putin’s contempt for a free-wheeling media has reached the point where he summarily shut down the country’s respected state news agency. And, in the United States, the Obama administration has imposed harsh legal penalties on officials suspected of leaking to the press. The policies of the Chinese and Russian governments, reflecting the deeply ingrained, ideological, and political character of those states, represent a tradition of media suppression. But it is astounding to read the extent to which reporters in Washington are being denied access to officials who run serious risks for talking to them.
The notion that actions in the United States could bear any comparison to China and Russia seems inconceivable. Yet the opening paragraph of a report