President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the media have been condemned by experts on free expression, saying his rhetoric is eroding public trust in the media and can spark violence against journalists.
David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Edison Lanza of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said this in a joint statement issued in New York on Thursday.
“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts.”
Trump had labelled the media as being the “enemy of the American people,” “very dishonest” and “fake news,” they noted.
Moreover, the U.S. leader had accused the media of distorting democracy and spreading conspiracy theories and blind hatred.
“These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law,” the experts said.
They expressed concern that the attacks risked increasing targeted violence against journalists.
According to them, Trump and his administration have sought to undermine the reporting of uncovered fraud, abuse, potential illegal conduct and disinformation.
“Each time the president calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavoured outlets, he suggests nefarious motivations or animus.”
They noted that Trump had not even once been able to show any specific reporting that was driven by untoward motivations.
“It is critical that the U.S. administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation.”
They, therefore, urged Trump to not only “stop using his platform to denigrate the media” but to condemn the attacks, including press threats at his own rallies.
Affirming that media attacks go beyond Trump’s language, they encouraged his administration, including the Justice Department, to “avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources”.
They said that the actions undermined the media’s independence and blocked the public from accessing information.
The experts also appealed to the government to stop pursuing whistle-blowers through the tool of the Espionage Act.
“We stand with the independent media in the United States, a community of journalists and publishers and broadcasters among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide.
“We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.”
The experts encouraged all media to act in solidarity against the efforts of the U.S. president to favour some outlets over others.
“Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks,” they advised.