TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Aug18/01)
6 August 2018
Third World Network

Rights experts denounce Trump's attacks on media
Published in SUNS #8736 dated 6 August 2018

Geneva, 3 Aug (Kanaga Raja) - Both United Nations and Inter-American experts on freedom of expression on Thursday condemned US President Donald Trump's repeated attacks on the free press.

In a joint statement, the experts urged the President and his administration to cease efforts to undermine the media's role of holding government accountable, honest and transparent.

The statement was issued by Mr David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Mr Edison Lanza, the Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

"His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts," they said.

According to the experts, the President has labelled the media as being the "enemy of the American people" "very dishonest" or "fake news," and accused the press of "distorting democracy" or 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 pointed out.

"We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence."

The rights experts said that, over the course of his presidency, Mr. Trump and others within his administration have sought to undermine reporting that had uncovered waste, 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," Mr Kaye and Mr Lanza said.

"But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations."

The experts said that it is critical that the US administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation.

To this end, they urged President Trump not only to stop using his platform to denigrate the media but to condemn these attacks, including threats directed at the press at his own rallies.

"The attack on the media goes beyond President Trump's language. We also urge his entire administration, including the Department of Justice, to avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources, an effort that undermines the independence of the media and the ability of the public to have access to information."

The experts further urged the Government "to stop pursuing whistle-blowers through the tool of the Espionage Act, which provides no basis for a person to make an argument about the public interest of such information."

"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."

Mr Kaye and Mr Lanza especially urged 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 of attacks on the press could have long-term negative implications for the public's trust in media and public institutions," Mr Kaye and Mr Lanza said.

"Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks," they added.