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United States' press freedom ranking drops sharply, report says

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FILE: May 14, 2013: Associated Press reporters and editors work in the House Press Gallery, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.AP

An increased focus on cracking down on whistleblowers has significantly dropped the United States’ press freedom ranking in the world, a new report says.

Reporters Without Borders’ annual Freedom Index report ranked the United States 46th in the world regarding freedom of information, a drop of 13 spots from 2012. The report cited the trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning, the pursuit of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records in an effort to find the source of a CIA leak, among other cases.

A federal “shield law” to help journalists protect sources is an “urgent” need in the United States, said the report, which also blasted the United Kingdom for its detention of the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first broke Snowden’s bombshell NSA revelations.

“Both the U.S. and U.K. authorities seem obsessed with hunting down whistleblowers instead of adopting legislation to rein in abusive surveillance practices that negate privacy, a democratic value cherished in both countries,” the report said.

David Cuillier, the president of the Society of Professional Journalists, told FoxNews.com on Monday he agreed with the report’s findings and believes the journalism climate in the United States continues to get worse. Part of the problem, he said, is a public that, to a large extent, no longer trusts journalists and believes it's acceptable for the government to intimidate reporters, hide information and threaten journalists with jail time for doing their jobs.

“If the people didn’t like that, then the government wouldn’t do it,” Cuillier said. “(The government) will do as much as they can get away with. If the public lets them do it, or cheers them on, then they’ll do everything they can to control their message.”

Finland, the Netherlands and Norway topped the list, while Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan were considered the most hostile nations in the world for press freedom.

The report, which ranks 180 countries, “reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and (internet users) enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom,” according to the study’s methodology.

Reporters Without Borders is a non-profit organization that aims to protect journalists around the world, and acts as a watchdog for abuses.

Click here to read more from Reporters Without Borders.

FoxNews.com's Karl de Vries contributed to this report.