A Free Press Under Fire

On Tuesday, November 22, journalist Christiane Amanpour said in an acceptance speech for the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, “I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home.” (CDN)

President-Elect Donald Trump has made some unprecedented actions against the press, including not having a protective press pool following him on the campaign trail, Hadas Gold of Politico reported. 

Candidates typically have a team of reporters that travel on their planes and the motorcade. Although reporters evidently still covered Trump, they had less of the special media access. Sites such as the Washington Post were even denied credentials, meaning rather than entering events with press passes, they had to try to get in as regular attendees, said Tom Kludt and Brian Stelter of CNN. (CNN)

White House Press Association President said, “In addition to breaking with decades of historical precedent and First Amendment principles, this decision could leave Americans blind about his whereabouts and well-being in the event of a national crisis,” reported Gold.

In a slight shift, at a rally on Tuesday, Dec. 6 in North Carolina, Trump did silence booing of the press, and his spokesperson has said they “fully expect” to have a press pool in the White House, reported Chris Sanchez of Business Insider

Beyond denying press access, Trump has repeatedly accused media of giving false coverage of him, threatening to sue The New York Times for libel in response to their article regarding two women who came forward with accusations of sexual assault, Callum Borchers of The Washington Post said. You can read the New York Times's response to Trump's lawyers below. (NYT Co)

As reported in Newsweek, Trump said prior to the election, “I'm going to open up our libel laws so when [journalists] write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”

Libel protections against journalists exist so there is not a chilling effect when covering a public individual such as Trump. Change the laws, and the press would be intimidated from covering current events. Furthermore, in this case, they would be discouraged from critically reporting on the President of the United States, who should be kept accountable.

Amanpour wisely said that now, more than ever, journalists must be dedicated to factual reporting “without fear or favor” in a time when reporters are under fire and we have been labeled a world of “post-truth.”

As a media consumer, commit yourself to seeking out the facts and reading a variety of news. For example, this Christmas, I have asked for a subscription to The New York Times in order to support one of our country’s most well-respected newspapers that has been threatened by our President-Elect. I encourage you to find a way to be proactive and do the same.