KONFRONTASI - The UN rapporteur for freedom of expression has warned that US President Donald Trump’s verbal attacks on the media risks provoking violence against journalists.
In a joint statement on Thursday with Edison Lanza, who holds the same post at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, David Kaye said Trump’s tirades against the media violated the basic norms of press freedom.
“These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law,” they said. “We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.”
The freedom of expression experts said Trump’s attacks on the press were designed to raise doubts about verifiable facts, and that he and his administration had sought to undermine reporting on potential illegal conduct.
They also urged the Trump administration to stop suing journalists to discover their sources and to stop using the Espionage Act to pursue whistle-blowers. There have been at least two prosecutions of people leaking to journalists under that law.
Trump frequently brands news articles and media outlets he dislikes as “fake news”. Since his election, he has repeatedly criticized and rejected critical media reports about his administration, often without providing any evidence to support his case.
Last week CNN said one of its White House correspondents was excluded from a Trump event, prompting a complaint from the White House Correspondents Association.
Trump renewed his campaign against the media on Thursday during a speech in the US state of Pennsylvania, calling the press "fake, fake disgusting news" and casting journalists as his true political opponent.
"Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?" Trump asked, pointing to the media in the back of the hall. "They don't report it. They only make up stories."
Last week, the publisher of the New York Times urged Trump to stop attacking the American news media, saying it could "lead to violence" against reporters.
Arthur Gregg Sulzberger made the warning after Trump described the US press as "enemies of the people."
“This inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence," he said.[ptv]