May 03, 2017 State Department honors World Press Freedom Day despite Trump’s contempt for the First Amendment
Today is World Press Freedom Day.
Caring little if at all for the First Amendment’s prohibition against “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” Donald Trump bears utter contempt for the press. Only four days before World Press Freedom Day, Trump lumped all “mainstream media” as fake. Before Trump was elected, his campaign penned in reporters at his rallies, thus barring them from interviewing attendees, and leaving reporters on display for Trump’s supporters to harangue with chants of “tell the truth” and “CNN sucks”. Trump has declined to answer news conference questions from news organization(s) he is at odds with. Trump’s handlers not long ago barred various major news organizations from a press briefing. Ever thin-skinned but taunting-tongued, Trump would love nothing better than to water down First Amendment protections against libel lawsuits against the press, which he cannot accomplish without getting the First Amendment amended.
I had no hopes that Trump would be a friend of civil liberties — other than the Second Amendment, for which I support giving real teeth — and that has proven true.
The State Department today proclaims that “we reaffirm our commitment to promoting the fundamental principles of a free press around the world.” Those are hollow words unless Trump follows suit.
Even under Obama’s administration, and continuing into Trump’s, Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States rather low in its World Press Freedom Index. This year, RWB sensibly ranks the United States at a meager 43:
“Despite the bleak outlook under Trump, it bears repeating that his predecessor left behind a flimsy legacy for press freedom and access to information. Journalists continue to be arrested for covering various protests around the country, with several currently facing criminal charges. The Obama administration waged a war on whistleblowers who leaked information about its activities, leading to the prosecution of more leakers than any previous administration combined.”
RPB also trots out limits in the United States for protecting whistleblowers and journalists’ rights to keep confidential their sources and work product, as well as United States government searches of reporters and computers on their return to the United States from abroad.
Free speech and free press are essential against government abuse and government tyranny, and are essential in and of themselves. The First Amendment has weathered many storms over time, but is not getting any real support from Trump.