Thursday, April 26, 2018

U.S. press freedoms continue to shrink as Trump’s cries of ‘fake news’ spread globally

FILES - Protester holds a poster written "Journalism in not a crime" during a demonstration in support of freedom of press on August 1, 2015, in Berlin as reaction to treason investigation against two writers of the news blog Netzpolitik. A clash between Germany's chief prosecutor and justice minister broke into the open on August 4, 2015, sparked by a treason probe against a blog that had published domestic security documents. The case centres of the blog (Net politics), which earlier his year published documents on plans by Germany's domestic security agency to step up Internet surveillance.  AFP PHOTO / DPA / BRITTA PEDERSEN +++ GERMANY OUT        (Photo credit should read BRITTA PEDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
This shouldn't even need to be said, but here we are.
Freedom of the press is an essential, load-bearing thread in the American fabric, but under Donald Trump, it’s in ever-increasing danger. Reporters Without Borders released its annual freedom of the press rankings today, and these United States continue to slowly slide out of the top 50. 
The United States’ ranking fell from 43 to 45 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index, continuing its downward trend in the first year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.
RSF explored the dangers of Trump’s war on the press last summer, just six months into his term, warning that his constant use of the term “fake news” to knock any and all of his critics was growing increasingly infectious.
Donald Trump’s repeated diatribes against the Fourth Estate and its representatives – accusing them of being the “enemy of the American people”, ”among the most dishonest human beings on earth”, and deliberately spreading “fake news” – compromise a long US tradition of defending press freedom.
Trump’s coordinated attacks on the press have also helped to disinhibit attacks on the media almost everywhere in the world, including in democratic countries. The world’s press freedom predators have seized on the notion of “fake news” to muzzle the media on the pretext of fighting false information, and many of them have taken recent statements by Trump as a means of justifying their repressive policies.
With the media-bashing and restricting of access happening at home, it’s no wonder that the most repressive regimes of the world are feeling emboldened to do the same. 
In other words, the world is watching while our walking, talking, spray-tanned corn cob of a president continues to find ways to demean and discredit the media, and dangerous leaders across the globe are incorporating Trump’s methods and hyperbole to limit press freedom in their own nations.

With so many Trumpian attacks coming from his Twitter account (where he blocks his critics), it might be easy for Americans to dismiss the threats as the impulsive acts of a flaxen-haired maniac covered in Big Mac sauce and Diet Coke spatter—after all, you can still read this, so it can’t be that bad, right?

But this truly IS a big deal, with the potential to be much worse. So great is the risk that last summer, a YUGE consortium of journalists—and those who protect their rights—joined forces to track violations against reporters at the hands of not just the Trump administration, but all the way down to the local level.
This is a difficult time to be a journalist in the United States. President Donald Trump has used vitriolic rhetoric targeting individual journalists and media organizations, undermining the role a free press should play in a democracy. This has prompted renewed interest in domestic press freedom issues.

This website will track those incidents, but the Trump administration is not the only authority that needs to be held to account. We will also track press freedom violations by local politicians and police departments.

Freedom doesn’t just mean the freedom to report. Journalists were startled recently when the Department of Homeland Security openly sought a contractor to help compile a database of journalists and media influencers; in a totally professional and not slightly inflammatory or insulting response to those concerns, DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton dismissed the project as “standard.”

Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists. 

Yeah, sure, okay.

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