September 5, 2017

US — #WeeklyAddress August 28 – September 3: “Reckless driving” - Trump’s attacks on media spark international condemnation

Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of August 28 – September 3:

UN Human Rights Chief slams President Trump for attacks on the media

On Wednesday, August 30, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered forceful criticism of President Trump’s attacks on the media, claiming freedom of the press was “under attack from the president himself.” Zeid argued that Trump’s increased aggression towards journalists could lead to “incitement for others to attack journalists.” Zeid’s statement follows Trump’s response to criticism of his remarks on the Charlottesville rally, where he blamed media outlets for failing to accurately portray his position on white supremacy.

Mic reporter harassed after publishing article on Milo Yiannopoulos

Brianna Provenzano, a news reporter for online publication Mic, said she was doxed after publishing an article critical of Milo Yiannopoulos’s attendance at the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday, August 29. After contacting Yiannopoulos, a prominent alt-right figure, for more information regarding the nature of his attendance, Provenzano’s email was posted to his Facebook page, where online users identifying themselves as members of the alt-right began sending countless threatening emails to her server.

Sarah Palin’s defamation suit against New York Times dismissed by federal judge

On Wednesday, August 30, U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff dismissed a federal lawsuit against the New York Times for defamation. According to the judge, Sarah Palin’s legal team failed to provide evidence that the NYT intentionally attempted to link the former governor of Alaska with the 2011 mass shooting that wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The article in question was published by the Times’ editorial board shortly after the June 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that wounded four, including one Republican congressman. The editorial mistakenly associated the previous 2011 shooting with Sarah Palin’s political action committee’s map of several congressional districts, which used stylized crosshairs as targets. Two days after the editorial ran, the Times issued a correction, stating there was no correlation between Sarah Palin and the mass shooting. In the written ruling, Judge Rakoff stated

“If political journalism is to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful, legal redress by a public figure must be limited to those cases where the public figure has a plausible factual basis for complaining that the mistake was made maliciously.”

Congressman refuses to meet with reporter he body-slammed

Greg Gianforte, a Republican Congressman from Minnesota, is receiving backlash for reneging on a promise to grant an interview to Ben Jacobs, a political reporter for The Guardian. On Wednesday, August 30, Jacobs released a statement calling Gianforte’s avoidance of the interview requests “a display of his true character.” Jacobs said he hoped to meet him on Capitol Hill “without the fear of physical violence.” Gianforte was convicted of assault in June after body-slamming Jacobs when he attempted to ask Gianforte a healthcare related question on the eve of his election.

Bipartisan poll reveals American attitudes towards the media

A bipartisan poll published on Wednesday, August 30, by Fox News shows that 69% of Republican voters believe the media is a “greater threat to the United States than white supremacy”. Data collected from both Republican and Democrat polling firms revealed a partisan split among Americans, with 83% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans stating that Trump “hates the news media more than white supremacists.”

The United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.

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