Lost freedom of press in America

Lost+freedom+of+press+in+America

Crystal Foretia

Freedom of the press has been a cornerstone of American democracy since the birth of the nation. Often called the fourth estate, a free press is meant to reveal the truth to the public without fear of governmental retribution. However, the Trump administration threatens to undermine this essential freedom.

President Trump has repeatedly and publicly demonstrated his hatred for the mainstream media.  In a solo press conference held on Feb. 15, Trump referred to coverage of the White House leaks as fake and blasted CNN for having “so much anger and hatred.” However, Trump acknowledged that the leaks were real and provided no evidence of CNN reporting unfairly.

Three days later, Trump made a tweet which equated the mainstream media to fake news: “Don’t believe the mainstream (fake news) media. The White House is running VERY WELL.”

Trump’s statements are dangerous. They blur the line between fact and fiction and enable more misinformation to seep into the public consciousness. Though fair critiques can be made toward mainstream press, Trump’s attacks fuel distrust in news altogether. Skepticism of journalism as a source of valid information could lead to more incidents such as “Pizzagate,” a debunked conspiracy theory which claimed that a human-trafficking ring was operating at a D.C. pizzeria loosely linked to the Clinton campaign.

In other press briefings, the Trump administration has shown favoritism to outlets that have covered them positively. Trumps tends to answer more questions from Breitbart, the alt-right website that Trump’s most senior advisor, Steve Bannon, used to run. This preferential treatment encourages false news reporting and pro-Trump propaganda.

Trump’s behavior towards the media has been worrisome ever since the beginning of his campaign.  During the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries, Trump banned multiple news outlets, including the Washington Post and Politico, from sending reporters to his rallies and other events. Journalists who were able to attend his rallies were corralled into a “press pen.”

Reporters such as Katy Tur have described the pen as being restrictive and uncomfortable. The confinement of the press is made worse by the crowd’s jeers and immature behavior at the rallies. Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi explained that Trump “made demonizing journalists part of his stump speech,” which encouraged the heckling and intimidation of the corralled reporters.

Trump’s opposition to the media grew even after he was elected. According to Esquire Magazine, Trump’s transition team suggested that press conferences should be moved out of the White House briefing room. The Trump administration’s overall behavior towards the media shows an authoritarian tendency to suppress the voice of critical reporters and favor biased sources to serve their agenda.

The state of freedom of the press in the U.S. highlights a troubling worldwide trend. Press freedom saw a “deep and disturbing decline” across the world in 2016, says Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), a Paris-based nonprofit focused on free information.

According to RSF, the global score for freedom of the press has decreased by 13.6% since 2013. The nonprofit also reports that 57 professional journalists have been killed, 187 imprisoned, and 44 detained as of December 2016.

RSF also uses an index to rank 180 countries on their press freedom each year. Out of those 180 countries, the United States ranked 41st in 2016.  Not only does Trump’s disdain for mainstream news resemble that of fascist regimes like Russia, but it will also continue the deterioration of America’s press freedom highlighted in RSF’s report.

The Huffington Post explains that the war on whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, is the primary reason for America’s disappointing placement on the list.  To make matters worse, evidence suggests that Trump will ramp up the war on whistleblowers.

After President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who leaked footage of an airstrike in which American journalists were killed by U.S. soldiers, Trump responded negatively.

He tweeted Jan. 26 that Manning is an “ungrateful TRAITOR” who should not have been released. The tweet implies that Trump would have never commuted Manning’s sentence like Obama did. Trump shows that he will severely punish those who expose disturbing government secrets.

President Trump’s actions threaten the First Amendment. America often claims to be the epitome of a true, functioning democracy.  But the recent restrictions on the freedom of the press endanger our status as a respectable democratic nation.

Read more at:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-white-house-reporters_us_587b82e5e4b0e58057ff43a5

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-press-always-got-booed-at-trump-rallies-but-now-the-aggression-is-menacing/2016/10/14/6092ea34-922d-11e6-9c52-0b10449e33c4_story.html?utm_term=.9c163dc03556

https://rsf.org/en/deep-and-disturbing-decline-media-freedom

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/2016-global-press-freedom_us_5835ae9be4b000af95ed636d