The White House has shrugged off accusations that President Donald Trump is waging war on the news media—notably this week when press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to state that the press is not, as Trump has stated, “the enemy of the people.”
But two international rights experts said Thursday that the president’s repeated attacks on individual journalists as well as the media as a whole are part of a strategic plan to pit the American public against those tasked with reporting on the Trump administration—and to threaten the rights of reporters.
“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” said David Kaye and Edison Lanza, special rapporteurs on freedom of expression for the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, respectively.
“These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law,” the experts added in their joint statement. “We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.”
“Each time the president calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavored outlets, he suggests nefarious motivations or animus. But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations.” —David Kaye and Edison Lanza, U.N. rights expertsIn addition to urging his supporters to discount media reports about his presidency, Trump and his staffers have also taken steps to restrict press access. CNN journalist Kaitlan Collins was barred from attending a press event after asking Trump questions about his former lawyer Michael Collins and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and AFP correspondent Michael Beatty said this week that the White House is now requiring additional passes to attend press briefings.
The heightened concern from global officials also follows a number of troubling statements by the president and his staff in recent days—a wave of anti-press sentiment that’s been part of Trump’s general negative attitude toward the so-called “fake news” media outlets that have reported about his 2016 campaign and presidency.
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