Trump’s Attacks on Journalists Result in U.S. Drop in Press Freedom

Making America Great Again, Trump style means everything President Vladimir Putin ever dreamed of to undermine western democracy. The Trump Putin agenda scored big with the drop in press freedom in the United States, according to the world freedom rankings by Reporters Without Borders.

The 2018 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “reflects growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies.”

Authoritarian regimes exporting their vision of journalism to previous/current democracies “pose a threat to democracies.”

Translation, Putin to Trump to American journalists to the expansion and unabashed use of propaganda as news in the United States under Trump.

RSF continues, “More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”

Poynter pointed out that the latest world freedom rankings show that hatred of journalists by leaders and their followers is behind the drop in press freedom, “Hatred of journalists by leaders and their followers are behind a drop in press freedom in the United States, India, and Philippines. Nordic nations remain the most free.”

“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda.”

Self-censorship is one measure of press freedom. Even the left fell for Trump’s “fake news” accusations, when it is actually Trump and Republicans who are pushing fake news, with the help of Russian bots and social media. Yes, of course accurate news matters, but many of the folks who appointed themselves the arbiter of fake news do not even have a basic understanding of what that actually is, and instead used to undermine ideas they don’t like and outlets they see as competitors.

Journalists are not perfect people; no one is. But the job of reporting on the government is so important to a free country that it is protected in the First Amendment of our Constitution. The U.S. government does not grant free speech rights or status at the whim of those in power in the government. This is a core principle of our democracy.

Pause on that phrase and consider Trump’s treatment of James Comey, his lies about various members of the press, and Sinclair pushing pro-Trump propaganda as local news.

The First Amendment is meant to restrict the government from overreach on the basic rights of the people, including their right to criticize the government. This is not a right one needs Trump’s permission for; it is granted automatically and cannot be taken away. Every tine Trump and his propaganda pushers in the White House/Fox (is there any separation?) conflate Trump with the United States so that criticizing a choice he has made means hating America, they are deliberately working to undermine free speech.

That is, in the free United Stated these rights cannot be taken away. But Trump has managed to undermine basic freedoms already, because even while he appears drunk at the wheel, Republicans enable the takeover and undermining of this precious and basic freedom in what can only be seen as an act of compliance, if not complicity, toward Putin.