January 12, 2018

RSF to participate in unprecedented US press freedom mission

Brendan Smialowski / AFP
Reporters Without Borders, also known internationally as Reporters sans frontières (RSF), will join a delegation of global press freedom groups convened by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and IFEX on a fact-finding mission to the United States, reflecting concerns about threats to journalists and heightened anti-press rhetoric in the first year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.

January 15 - 19, RSF’s Secretary General Christophe Deloire and Washington Bureau Director Margaux Ewen will join leading representatives of CPJ, IFEX, Article 19, Index on Censorship, and the International Press Institute to meet with journalists and high-level policy makers in Houston, Texas, the Missouri cities of Columbia and St. Louis, and Washington, DC. The purpose of the mission is to collect data on the state of press freedom in the United States, discuss the delegation’s main concerns with policy makers, and ultimately show solidarity with American journalists.

Under President Trump’s leadership, the US has become a treacherous place for media workers and journalists in a way we haven’t ever seen before,” said Christophe Deloire, RSF’s Secretary General. “Trump has mastered the authoritarian tactic of discrediting and disempowering the media. It is unfortunate and frankly astonishing that a country which enshrines the freedom of press in its Constitution is undergoing such a drastic and fast-paced decline in its media climate. The shift is so drastic that RSF must now join CPJ and other international organizations in a fact-finding mission usually reserved for countries with abysmal press freedom records, like Mexico or Ukraine.”

President Trump’s relentless anti-media rhetoric has contributed to the rise in physical attacks against and arrests of journalists and the decline of press freedom in the US. Throughout his first year as president, Trump has threatened to revoke press credentials for certain media outlets, overseen a decrease in White House press briefings and pool sprays, called for federal libel laws to combat what he determines to be “fake news,” and has bypassed and undermined the role of the press by using Twitter and social media to attempt to delegitimize reporting that he deems unfavorable. This has had dire consequences for national trust in the press, and has led to a decline in press freedom in the country.

The US Press Freedom Tracker, which launched last year and of which RSF is a partner, collects data on journalists in the US who have been attacked, arrested, stopped at the border, or had their equipment seized. According to the data collected in 2017, at least 32 journalists were arrested, 39 were physically attacked, and 16 seizures of journalists’ equipment occurred throughout the year.

The United States currently ranks 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index after falling two places between 2016 and 2017. The record number of press freedom violations that have occurred in 2017 will be reflected in the 2018 Index and almost certainly guarantee a further drop in the United States’ performance.