Washington: In an unprecedented move, nearly 350 media outlets Thursday launched a coordinated campaign decrying US President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on journalists and his attempt to portray some news organisations as enemies of the American people.
Trump has stepped up his attacks on the media in recent weeks and the White House last month barred a CNN reporter from covering a public event after she asked Trump an “inappropriate” question.
The Boston Globe made the call last week for a nationwide denouncement of President Trump’s “dirty war” against the media, using the hashtag #EnemyOfNone. Each newspaper participating in the effort wrote its own separate editorial against the US President’s anti-media comments.
Trump has frequently derided unfavourable media reports as “fake news” and attacked journalists as “enemies of the people”.
The Trump Twitter Archive says he has tweeted 281 times so far using the term “fake news”.
Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country, The Boston Globe said in its editorial.
“Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current US administration are the “enemy of the people.” This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president much like an old-time charlatan threw out “magic” dust or water on a hopeful crowd,” the stinging editorial commented. The Editorial Board of The New York Times noted that this year, some of the most damaging attacks came from government officials.
“Criticising the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job.
“But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period,” it said.
These attacks on the press are particularly threatening to journalists in nations with a less secure rule of law and to smaller publications in the United States, already buffeted by the industry’s economic crisis, the influential paper noted.
The New York Post – hardly a left-leaning paper – 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.
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”.
Opinion writers at McClatchy put out an editorial for the 30 daily newspapers it runs, including the Miami Herald, saying they hardly ever spoke with one voice but were doing so now. It said “enemies of the people” was “what Nazis called Jews. It’s how Joseph Stalin’s critics were marked for execution”.
North Carolina newspaper The Fayetteville Observer said it hoped “all the president’s supporters will recognise what he’s doing – manipulating reality to get what he wants”.
The St Louis Post-Dispatch called journalists “the truest of patriots”, while the Chicago Sun-Times said it was confident the majority of US citizens did not share Trump’s views.
“We firmly believe most Americans know that Trump is talking nonsense, whatever they might tell the pollsters,” the Chicago paper’s editorial said.
“We firmly believe they understand that a free society is impossible without a free press,” it added.
Meanwhile, a poll released by Quinnipiac University Wednesday suggested that 51 per cent of the Republican voters now believed the media to be “the enemy of the people rather than an important part of democracy” and 52 per cent of the Republican supporters polled were not concerned that Trump’s criticism would lead to violence against journalists.
Among all voters, 65 per cent believe the news media to be an important part of democracy, the poll suggests.
An Ipsos poll, also this month, gave similar figures. In addition it found that 23 per cent 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.