US: RSF calls on President-elect Biden to take an immediate stand for press freedom

With Joseph Biden now projected to win the US presidential race, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the President-elect to act immediately to begin to reverse the extensive damage done to the US’ press freedom record during Donald Trump’s presidency.

In the wake of a historic election, RSF calls on President-elect Biden to take an immediate stand to protect press freedom and the safety of journalists at home and abroad by supporting the Press Freedom Pact. Following four years of steady deterioration of the US’ press freedom record, hostility towards the media has never been worse in a US electoral context - and has resulted too often in real-life violence and aggression. To address these alarming trends, RSF called on candidates from all parties to affirm their commitment to protect press freedom; dozens have signed on so far.

“The world will be closely watching President-elect Biden’s next steps, and we urge him to seize this opportunity to take a stand for press freedom. There has never been a more crucial time for strong leadership to address the extensive damage that has been done to the US’ press freedom record - starting by sending a clear signal that violence and aggression towards the media will no longer be tolerated, and taking steps to begin to restore safeguards for press freedom, which is vital to American democracy,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

After detailing extensive press freedom concerns during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, when the results came in from the November 2016 elections, RSF called on him to respect press freedom in the presidency. Instead, he used the office to attack journalists, spread disinformation, and steadily erode the US’ position of international leadership on press freedom - which has served to weaken protections for press freedom globally.

Trump’s hostile rhetoric towards the press - whom he has labelled as “enemies of the people” - contributed to an environment of real-life violence for journalists. In June 2018, a shooter opened fire on the Capital Gazette newsroom in Maryland, killing five people (including four journalists) and injuring two others. 

This year, journalists across the country faced extensive aggression and violence while covering Black Lives Matter protests. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker - of which RSF is a partner - has tallied more than 880 aggressions towards the press in 2020 alone. At least 37 incidents were tracked against journalists while reporting on the elections.

The United States is ranked 45th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 10.11.2020