Defends free press, say it’s core principle for 200 yrs

Washington : At least 350 news outlets have launched a campaign to counter US President Donald Trump’s attacks against the media and promote a free press.

Hundreds of US newspapers, from the Martha’s Vineyard Times to the Dallas Morning News; from the Yankton County Observer in South Dakota to the Bangor Daily News in Maine, devoted print space on Thursday in an joint effort to defend press freedom in the country, CNN reported.

The move was initiated by the Boston Globe for a nationwide denouncement of the President’s “dirty war” against the media, using the hashtag #EnemyOfNone. It pledged to write an editorial “on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press” and asked others to do the same.

The campaign is significant because it moves the conversation about Trump’s attacks out of Washington and New York and into communities across the country. He often derides media reports as “fake news” and attacks journalists as “enemies of the people”.

The initial positive response from 100 news organisations grew closer to 350 with major US national newspapers and smaller local outlets answering the call, along with international publications like the UK newspaper, the Guardian.

The Boston Globe in its editorial, “Journalists Are Not The Enemy”, argued that a free press had been a core American principle for more than 200 years.

The New York Times in its article, “A Free Press Needs You”, called Trump’s attacks “dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy”. It published excerpts from dozens more publications beneath.

The New York Post, answered the Globe’s call by saying “Who are we to disagree?” adding: “It may be frustrating to argue that just because we print inconvenient truths doesn’t mean that we’re fake news, but being a journalist isn’t a popularity contest. All we can do is to keep reporting.”

But it also said: “Will this make a difference? Not one whit”.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said its city was the birthplace of US democracy, writing: “If the press is not free from reprisal, punishment or suspicion for unpopular views or information, neither is the country. Neither are its people.”

The Wall Street Journal declined to take part in the campaign.

A poll released by Quinnipiac University showed most Americans, 65%, regard the news media as an important part of democracy, not an “enemy”. But 26% of respondents, including 51% of Republicans, sided with Trump’s “enemy” rhetoric.

An Ipsos poll, also this month, gave similar figures. In addition it found that 23% of Republicans, and about one in eight Americans overall, believed Trump should close down mainstream news outlets like CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Press freedom groups have been sounding alarms about the threats posed by Trump’s dehumanising language.

He certainly ramped up the pressure on mainstream media with numerous tweets. The Trump Twitter Archive says he has tweeted 281 times so far using the term “fake news”.

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Free Press Journal