Donald Trump’s war on the press comes at a time when American journalism is dying, its ranks radically thinned as giant chains, many of them owned by investment banks interested only in profit rather than community service.
He ramped up his attacks Thursday night [2 August], devoting most of the evening’s rally to a relentless attack on the Fourth Estate, as the Associated Press reports:
“Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?” Trump asked, pointing to the media in the back of the hall. “They don’t report it. They only make up stories.”
Time and time again, Trump denounced the press for underselling his accomplishments and doubting his political rise.
“Only negative stories from the fakers back there,” the president declared.
With each denunciation, the crowd jeered and screamed at the press in the holding pen at the back of the arena.
His assault on journalism came on the same day that two leading United Nations officials spoke out against his escalating assault on the free press.
From the United Nations:
Human rights experts denounce Trump’s attacks against media
The United Nations expert on free expression has condemned President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the press, warning that the US leader’s rhetoric is eroding public trust in the media and could spark violence against journalists.
“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and Edison Lanza, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said in a joint statement on Thursday.
Mr. Trump has labelled the media as being the “enemy of the American people,” “very dishonest” and “fake news,” the statement said. Moreover, he has accused the press 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, expressing concern that the attacks risk increasing targeted violence against journalists.
The experts stressed that over the course of his presidency, Mr. Trump and his administration have sought to undermine reporting that had 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,” the experts continued, “he suggests nefarious motivations or animus.” However, they pointed out that not even one time was he able to show any specific reporting that was driven by untoward motivations.
“It is critical that the US administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation,” they underscored.
To this end, they urged President 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 Mr. 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,” saying that it undermines the media’s independence and blocks 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 long among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide,” they asserted. “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 President Trump 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 concluded.
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
As someone who’s devoted his working life to practicing the craft of journalism, we are deeply alarmed at the state of the American press.
Trump wants what any tyrant wants: A silencing of opposing voices.
And with the press now own by those seeking profit over principle, the prognosis is bleak,