Monday, March 06, 2017

More than 80 groups sign statement in support of freedom of the press to fight Trump's war on press

A group of more than 80 organizations have signed a statement in support of freedom of the press. The statement reads, "As organizations committed to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the press, we are alarmed by the efforts of the President and his administration to demonize and marginalize the media and to undermine their ability to inform the public about official actions and policies."

The statment reads: "Such efforts include the President’s refusal to answer questions posed by a reporter from CNN because the President asserts it promotes 'fake news'; charges that the media 'manipulated' images of the inauguration; false accusations that the media has covered up terrorist attacks; and repeated claims that the media is 'failing' and 'dishonest.' All of this recently culminated in the President calling The New York Times, CBS, CNN, ABC, and NBC News 'the enemy of the American People!' and in the exclusion of representatives of various media outlets from a press briefing. In these and other examples, the President and his designees have attempted to villainize and discredit the press for any reporting he dislikes. However, the job of the press is not to please the President but to inform the public, a function that is essential to democracy."

"The First Amendment protects the right to protest, dissent, and petition government for a redress of grievances, but these rights cannot be exercised without a free press that provides information to the public," according to the statement. "Together, these rights represent the constitutionally sanctioned method for the public to oppose government policies and activities and to seek change. The wisdom of this system can be seen in parts of the world where such a right does not exist, or is not honored, and violent opposition is the only available avenue to express opposition or remedy injustice. We condemn in the strongest possible terms all efforts by elected and appointed officials to penalize, delegitimize, or intimidate members of the press."

Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, one of the organizations to sign the statement, said in a statement, "Our government, and indeed our democracy, are dependent on a free and independent press that can be the eyes and ears for the people. When an administration decides to shut out reporters from a press briefing, it is taking the choice about where to get news away from the public and putting it in the hands of government. That is not press freedom. When federal prosecutors subpoena journalists to testify about confidential sources and reporting, that is not press freedom."

Sunshine Week, which celebrates open government, is from March 13-19.

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