International media leaders have signalled their deep concern with the U.S. administration's persistent attacks on the press by calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to halt his "fake media" accusations and to ensure White House briefings remain accessible to all media.
Over 40 editors in chief, CEOs and publishers representing media from around the world, including HuffPost SA editor-in-chief Verashni Pillay, have signed a letter addressed to President Trump outlining how his regular labelling of mainstream news outlets as 'fake news' as well as the exclusion of critical media outlets from a recent White House press briefing signalled a worrying decline in accountability for his administration.
"It is deeply unhelpful to see the President of the United States of America fuelling antagonism towards news outlets by labelling them — misleadingly — as 'fake news'," the letter to Trump said. "We fear that the overall climate for media freedom currently being fostered by your presidency seriously jeopardises the on-going ability of a free press to hold power to account in the United States."
The letter, sent to the administration by the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, highlighted the damage the president's comments — regularly made using the social media platform Twitter — are having on an industry attempting to respond to the phenomenon of disinformation and "fake news".
Signalling growing concern from among the international press community, the letter highlighted the U.S.'s historic relationship with a free press to underline how the president's actions since coming to office risk inspiring leaders in countries with weaker press freedom safeguards to repress or stifle essential freedoms. The letter also firmly rejected President Trump's repeated accusation that media is the "enemy of the American People".
"At a time when journalists and news media are being increasingly targeted for violent reprisal (and, in too many cases, often deadly retribution as a result of the work they do), the tone of your comment is highly inflammatory," said the letter. "In a deeply divided America, a country facing many challenges on numerous fronts, the need for a vocal and critical press to act as the watchdog over essential freedoms on behalf of society seems more urgent than ever."
WAN-IFRA urged the president to "welcome and encourage the kind of rigorous self-criticism a free media upholds as a means of ensuring the highest attainable standards of governance", calling for a meeting between his administration and representatives from the global media to discuss rebuilding a better relationship.
Read the full letter here: http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/170915/
WAN-IFRA is a global organisation of the world's newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.