January 29, 2016 - Updated on June 8, 2016

US presidential election a rocky road for journalists

As the primaries for the 2016 presidential election are set to begin in Iowa on February 1, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) examines the front-runners’ harsh treatment of the media, with a spotlight on Republican candidate Donald Trump and his grudge-match with Fox News.
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump refused to participate in last night’s Republican debate on Fox News, accusing the network’s anchor and debate moderator Megyn Kelly of bias, dishonesty, and calling her a “third-rate” reporter with a conflict of interest. He proclaimed on twitter: “The ‘debate’ tonight will be a total disaster - low ratings with advertisers and advertising rates dropping like a rock.” Trump has for months bullied Megyn Kelly with retweets such as: “The bimbo back in town. I hope not for long." The Fox News anchor was not by far Trump’s only target. Politico, for example, was not spared on Trump’s Twitter account: “I wonder why somebody doesn't do something about the clowns @politico and their totally dishonest reporting”. Donald Trump has been responsible for a series of press restrictions since becoming a presidential candidate last summer. On January 15 2016, the Trump campaign barred a New York Times reporter from covering an event in Iowa. Last August, Trump had Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos thrown out of a press conference, before allowing him to return and ask questions. In addition to Univision, (Fusion->xxx->, The Des Moines Register, The Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed all have had their credentials restricted or taken away by the Trump campaign over the past seven months. At rallies, candidates have often restricted reporters to a designated press area called a press pen, a common practice sometimes enforced by the Secret Service, making it difficult for journalists to even talk to rally attendees. But Trump took it one step further by forcing reporters to take an escort to the bathroom. “This carrot and stick approach with journalists is concerning, especially in the country of the first amendment, “said Delphine Halgand, RSF USA's Director. “In a democracy, politicians and presidential candidates should not dictate what is or is not good reporting. Donald Trump has brought his grudge-match with the media to an extremely dangerous level for freedom of the press.” Such restrictions of press freedom throughout American history have both Democrat and Republican offenders. Trump’s attitude towards journalists who don’t portray him in a positive way is not so different from former president Richard Nixon who kept a documented list of “political enemies” while in office, a number of whom were journalists. Clinton campaignHillary Clinton’s treatment of the press has at times been on par with Trump’s, especially where the foreign press is concerned. In June, she denied a Daily Mail reporter access to the press pool on a New Hampshire trip. Journalists have also criticized the Clinton campaign’s refusal to provide sourcing for basic information. The Huffington Post described “the Clinton campaign's long-running tensions with the press”, but noted this month that no incidents have occurred in the past six months.These types of restrictions are not just limited to candidates running for office. Reporters have also criticized the current administration’s lack of transparency and predatory acts toward journalists throughout the presidency. These events during the run up to the 2016 presidential election mark an alarming trend of curtailing freedom of the press in the United States. Since 2013, the U.S.’s ranking on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index has fallen by 14 points. It is now ranked 49 out of 180 countries.