Under the Trump administration, journalists have been especially vulnerable to hostile criticism, including directly from the president. Trump has frequently used inflammatory rhetoric to denigrate the media on Twitter, during press briefings, and at rallies around the nation.
Alarmingly, journalists are increasingly being subjected to violence, and it seems that the hostile rhetoric is at the very least partly to blame. Most recently, on October 24, CNN’s New York office received a suspicious package containing a pipe bomb that was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan. Although Brennan is a CNN contributor and not a journalist, the package was nevertheless delivered to the media outlet’s New York bureau. At a rally in Wisconsin the very same evening, President Trump criticized “acts or threats of political violence” against the press before blaming the news media for failing to “to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories.” He reiterated this sentiment in an October 26 tweet, disparaging “lowly rated CNN, and others” for criticizing the president “at will”. “Yet when I criticize them,” he continued, “they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’”
“All of these attacks on news media outlets are indicative of the climate of hostility that the president and others who mimic him have encouraged towards the press,” said Margaux Ewen, Director of RSF’s North America bureau. “If journalists no longer feel safe to do their jobs, their First Amendment right to seek out and report on public information is undermined. Those in power and particularly the president must understand the gravity and very real consequences of their rhetoric.”
The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.
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