“It is alarming to see that days after Trump tweeted a video depicting violence against a media outlet, a number of journalists and their families have received violent threats,” says Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF’s North America Bureau. "The message from the White House must be one that condemns, instead of condones, violence against the press for reporting the news.”
1. Journalists receive threats after reporting on Reddit user behind Trump’s CNN video
On Sunday, July 2, journalist Jared Yates Sexton began receiving intimidating messages, including some death threats, on social media and his personal phone number. Sexton received these threats after reporting on the creator of a user of the social news and media aggregation website Reddit, The threats became especially pervasive after Sexton reported on an anti-Semitic meme by the same Reddit user, which displayed a list of CNN employees with Jewish stars next to their names and pictures. CNN employees and their families have also been receiving threatening phone calls and messages, according to The Daily Beast. The parents and wife of CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski, who reported how the network identified the Reddit user behind the wrestling video, each received more than 50 harassing phone calls the day the story was published.
2. Trump refuses to apologize for video depicting violence against CNN
On Thursday, July 6, during a joint press conference in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump reiterated his belief that CNN is “fake news.” When asked to respond to claims that CNN blackmailed the Reddit user who created the anti-CNN meme Trump tweeted last week — an accusation CNN denies — Trump said he thinks what the news organization did was “unfortunate for them.” The Reddit user, identified by the name “HansA**HoleSolo,”apologized on July 4 for his posts and told CNN he did not feel threatened. However, during the press conference Trump continued his tirade against the press: "They've been covering me in a very dishonest way... What CNN and others -- NBC is equally as bad, despite the fact that I made them a fortune with 'The Apprentice,' but they forgot that."
3. Increased pressure from the White House, Congress on leakers
According to a Politico article published July 7, President Trump has been leading an intense crackdown on leakers within the White House, cultivating a culture of fear amongst officials. Officials are also becoming more concerned that they are being closely tracked by the administration. According to sources close to the President, the number of people that Trump shares top-secret information with has become drastically smaller -- in part so that leakers can easily be tracked down when the media publishes sensitive information. A number of Senate Republicans on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs issued a report on July 6 claiming media leaks under the current administration are a threat to national security, and that "the unauthorized disclosure of certain information can cost American lives, and our laws protecting this information provide for harsh punishments when violated."
4. Putin and Trump share a laugh at the press’ expense
On Friday, July 7, President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit in Germany. At a press conference ahead of their private meeting, Putin leaned in to Trump, pointed to the press, and said, “These are the ones who insulted you?” Trump then laughed and nodded his head. President Putin, who has relentlessly suppressed independent press in Russia, has been on RSF’s list of press freedom predators for years. According to RSF figures, 34 journalists have been killed in connection with their work since Putin first became President in 2000.
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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