CPJ chairman says Trump is threat to press freedom
Guaranteeing the free flow of information to citizens through a robust, independent press is essential to American democracy. For more than 200 years this founding principle has protected journalists in the United States and inspired those around the world, including brave journalists facing violence, censorship, and government repression.
Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values. On October 6, CPJ’s board of directors passed a resolution declaring Trump an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists and to CPJ’s ability to advocate for press freedom around the world.
Since the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has insulted and vilified the press and has made his opposition to the media a centerpiece of his campaign. Trump has routinely labeled the press as “dishonest” and “scum” and singled out individual news organizations and journalists.
The so-called “Committee to Protect Journalists” are equating the questioning of American media ethical standards (and lack thereof) with the violent repression of the press in some totalitarian nations.
Then again, we’ve all been told during this presidential campaign cycle that speech equates action so this Committee believes calling the esteemed media “dishonest” and “scum” is some kind of violence that can’t be tolerated. We respectfully remind this Committee to Protect Journalists that Americans observe ALL of the First Amendment, not just the part that refers to infringing on the press and we would hope the American media is tough enough to withstand a few names hurled their way.
He has mocked a disabled New York Times journalist and called an ABC News reporter a “sleaze” in a press conference. He expelled Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a campaign press conference because he asked an “impertinent” question, and has publicly demeaned other journalists.
Trump has refused to condemn attacks on journalists by his supporters. His campaign has also systematically denied press credentials to outlets that have covered him critically, including The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Politico, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Univision, and The Des Moines Register.
The Columbia Journalism Review has lamented the lack of transparency from the Obama Administration and we would hope the Committee to Protect Journalists would understand the difference between a political candidate that limits unfriendly press access and an actual government that has done so for almost eight years; an administration that refuses to not only answer the press, but to be consistent, government oversight committees as well.
Many in the American media have issued an incidental bitch-and-moan response, but nothing near the outrage of invoking the First Amendment and whine because insults had to be endured. In the United States, it’s still legal under the First Amendment to mock (and lie) about those you disagree with.
Liberals insult Republicans all the time; it’s expected and they take it with their big boy pants on without whining to have speech curtailed.
It’s legal in the United States to, heaven forbid, criticize the accuracy and integrity of the media. There have been more than enough examples of media bias, bias by omission, deceptive audio and video editing, plagiarism, and outright lies that justify any skepticism of anything a partisan media outlet distributes. The Committee to Protect Journalists, in invoking the First Amendment, conveniently omits the fact the media is not required to issue their journalism under oath.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has routinely made vague proposals to limit basic elements of press and internet freedom.
In the United States, any person has a right to invite and dis-invite anyone that person chooses to any event they may have, especially if in the case of the media, a reporter is sharing perspectives not consistent to the mission of that person. Should Tyson Foods be required to allow a press representative from PeTA to cover a press conference? Should Planned Parenthood be required to allow anti-abortion activist bloggers to their press events? In the United States, there is also a line in the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of association which also means you don’t have to be around people hostile to your interests.
Granted, a campaign for the presidency of the United States is of greater public interest but if a reporter goes out of his or her way to intentionally publish misleading and/or incorrect information to the public, that candidate has every right to expel that reporter.
At a rally in February, Trump declared that if elected president he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” In September, Trump tweeted, “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”
While some have suggested that these statements are rhetorical, we take Trump at his word. His intent and his disregard for the constitutional free press principle are clear.
The Founding Fathers gave the press a First Amendment protection because the media was supposed to be a watchdog of government and made that privilege to keep said government accountable to the people. Journalists were never intended to be friends with the powerful, go to their parties, donate to their campaigns and give off the stench of favoritism. Journalists were never given that First Amendment protection as a shield for lies, lack of industry standards and ethics like the use of anonymous sources, lack of attribution, one-sided accusations without thorough investigation and verification; you know, Journalism 1.01.
Sorry, if a journalist intentionally attempts to injure a politician using false information, he or she shouldn’t be allowed to use the First Amendment as a shield. Anyone with a modicum of common sense would see how that abuse could spiral out of control by nefarious individuals and/or news outlets. Kinda’ like what we have now.
Another problem is how journalism students ARE taught nowadays. Instead of going into what should be a very boring profession where they’re hired to simply report what happened, many narcissists seek to be activists as well and “make a difference” by any means necessary. See: Katie Couric.
A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States, but the consequences for the rights of journalists around the world could be far more serious. Any failure of the United States to uphold its own standards emboldens dictators and despots to restrict the media in their own countries. This appears to be of no concern to Trump, who indicated that he has no inclination to challenge governments on press freedom and the treatment of journalists
When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked him in December if his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin was at all tempered by the country’s history of critical journalists being murdered, his response was: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country… Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too.”
One would think the Committee to Protect Journalists would know the difference between nations where journalists are “murdered” for telling the truth and the United States where journalists can produce “fake but accurate” stories about presidential candidates and if not immediately fired, in some cases be rewarded with promotions.
The First Amendment is NOT a license to lie with impunity. That happens within our government by officials and is applauded by a partisan media; the same media that doubles down on their outrage and demand for accountability when a member of a party they’re not in agreement commits a fraction of impropriety.
Through his words and actions, Trump has consistently demonstrated a contempt for the role of the press beyond offering publicity to him and advancing his interests.
For this reason CPJ is taking the unprecedented step of speaking out now. This is not about picking sides in an election. This is recognizing that a Trump presidency represents a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.
Funny how the Committee to Protect Journalists failed to mention the collusion exposed in the WikiLeaks between Hillary Clinton’s campaigns and American journalists friendly to her and her ideology. Donald Trump’s campaign has managed to successfully sidestep the media by way of Twitter and his consistent large rally attendance to get his message out unfiltered by a media that’s demonstrated their ability to twist words and meaning to suit their personal preferences.
The Committee to Protect Journalists whine about things President Trump might do and conveniently sidestep all the Obama administration actually did against journalists.
The Obama administration has used the Espionage Act to go after whistleblowers who leaked to journalists … more than all previous administrations combined.
— Jake Tapper, CNN
In fact, this very same CPJ issued a 2013 stinging indictment of the Obama administration liberals lament the loss of today.
In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records. An “Insider Threat Program” being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues.
Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being “an aider, abettor and/or conspirator” of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.
“This is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered,” said David E. Sanger, veteran chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times.
Again, the First Amendment privilege given to journalists was always intended to guarantee their freedom to criticize government and inform The People of their activities, pro and con. NOT to be a propaganda arm of a party and/or ideology they prefer.
If journalists in the United States were truly doing their job, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would be treated fairly and equally and the Committee to Protect Journalists would still be a nonprofit few would know existed.
I think it’s dangerous. People need good, strong, skeptical journalists to be covering whoever it is — whether it’s Barack Obama or President Donald Trump — and we’re in a dangerous phase right now, where too many millions of Americans aren’t listening at all to what the press tells them.
— Megyn Kelly, NPR, 12/7/16
Well, aside from the narcissistic arrogance, whose fault it that, Megyn?
Despite the media’s overconfidence, mocking, and best efforts, Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election.