U.S. President Donald Trump’s continued attacks on the “fake, disgusting news” violates the “basic norms of press freedom,” United Nations human rights experts say.
In a joint statement, David Kaye and Edison Lanza, special rapporteurs on freedom of expression for the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission, condemned Trump’s frequent attacks on the media and have urged the president and his administration to “promote the role of a vibrant press.”
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“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” the experts said. “These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law.”
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The UN statement comes a day after Trump supporters jeered CNN journalist Jim Acosta at a rally in Tampa, Fla. Both CNN, and Acosta have been a target for Trump, labelling them as “fake news.”
Acosta was reporting live from a “Make America Great Again” rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds where the journalist was called a variety of things, including “traitor” and “liar.”
“I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt,” Acosta tweeted.
The broadcaster tweeted a video showing Trump supporters flashing him the middle finger while telling him: “You suck!”
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Both Kaye and Lanza expressed concern that Trump’s attacks on the media will result in violence against members of the press.
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“We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence,” they said. “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. But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations.”
On Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders refused to distance herself from Trump’s previous assertions that the media is the “enemy” of the American people. Pressed during a White House briefing on the issue, Sanders said Trump “has made his position known.”
In a heated exchange with reporters, she recited a litany of complaints against the press and blamed the media for inflaming tensions in the country.
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“As far as I know, I’m the first press secretary in the history of the United States that’s required Secret Service protection,” she said, accusing the media of continuing “to ratchet up the verbal assault against the president and everyone in this administration.”
Sanders comments came hours after Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is also a senior White House adviser, disagreed that media are “the enemy of the people.”
“I’ve certainly received my fair share of reporting on me personally that I know not to be fully accurate,” she said. “So I have some sensitivity around why people have concerns and gripe especially if they feel targeted, but no I do not think the media is the enemy of the people.”
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During another campaign-style rally in Pennsylvania Thursday evening, Trump blasted members of the media as being “horrible horrendous people.”
“They can make anything bad, because they are the fake, fake, disgusting news,” said Trump.
The UN experts pleaded in their statement for the president to “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.”
“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,” Kaye and Lanza said. “We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.
“Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks,” they said.