Attending the Reporters Without Borders release of The Freedom of the Press Worldwide Index 2018. The U.S. comes in at no. 45 out of 180 & is behind Suriname. #PressFreedom @spj_tweets pic.twitter.com/LfjyOz6b5W— Alison McKenzie (@bethelmckenzie) April 25, 2018
President Donald Trump’s frequent threats and criticisms of the press have lowered our nation’s free press rating, a new report released Wednesday explained.
Trump lashed out on Wednesday morning with yet another criticism of the American media. Commenting on a special election win by a Republican candidate in a Congressional race in Arizona, Trump lamented on Twitter that the “press is so silent” about the results.
Congratulations to Republican Debbie Lesko on her big win in the Special Election for Arizona House seat. Debbie will do a Great Job! Press is so silent.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2018
This is yet another example of Trump trying to feed into a narrative of a press standing against him, of being so biased that they refuse to report on news that may put him or his party in a positive light. But it’s a false premise: Many news organizations did, in fact, report on the outcome of Arizona’s special election last night.
Trump’s attacks on the media have been well-documented in the past, and it’s because of these attacks that the U.S. free press rating from Reporters Without Borders has gone down, dropping two places from last year and ranking 45th in the world for press freedom. That rating puts us behind Romania, Suriname, Ghana, Canada, and Taiwan, among many others.
The report from that organization states that Trump, “A media-bashing enthusiast, ... has referred to reporters [as] 'enemies of the people,' the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”
America’s downgrade — specifically relating to the current president’s usage of the term “fake news” — has resulted in problems elsewhere in the world, the report notes.
“‘Fake news’ is now a trademark excuse for media repression, in both democratic and authoritarian regimes” beyond the U.S., Reporters Without Borders adds.
To be sure, America’s ranking was already taking a dive before Trump took office. The treatment of the press by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama led many journalists to question how dedicated to the ideals of the First Amendment either political party really was.
But Trump has taken things to even higher levels of concern. His attacks on the media, including his suggestions during his 2016 presidential campaign (that some First Amendment press protections should be rescinded) have left many in the world of journalism wondering just how far he will go to protect his image — and whether he will destroy a pillar of American democracy in order to do it.
It is not ethical of Trump, nor demonstrative of his commitment to a free media, to frequently tout the press as “fake news,” or to create a pseudo-awards show for news organizations he deems as “fake.” It’s actually a transparent complaint by the president, signaling he’s bitter about news coverage he doesn’t like.
The negative news that may exist is Trump’s own making. The demeanor he exhibits, and his frequent gaffes, miscues, and unconstitutional approaches to governance, deserve to be reported on — if he wants the press to stop, then he should govern more honestly, openly, and with less controversy.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Kevin Lamarque