Photo by Gage Skidmore and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

President Trump’s “fake news” campaign and shunning of press diversity has led to a series of grave abuses against media and journalists, and threatens an already wilting American democracy.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has made a point at slamming those media outlets he views as contrary to his views, and that of his administration.

While it is the prerogative for anyone to disagree with any given news outlets, it is another thing to actively seek to shut down, disappear, or altogether censor the media to serve one’s political agenda.

As a matter of principle, the Milwaukee Independent strongly opposes any infringement on Free Speech and Press Freedom. More to the point, we join with local and national organizations that are committed to the promotion of a vibrant free press, away from governmental pressure, fear, and coercion.

Without a free and independent press, no society can claim democracy. As George Orwell wrote: “Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.”

Trump and his administration’s propensity to shut out and dismiss those voices it holds in disregard is deeply troubling. In late 2017, former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather compared Trump’s words to those of dictators.

“There’s a massive effort using the full force and power of the presidency to intimidate journalists… To convince the public at large that journalists are ‘enemies of the people.’ That is a very dangerous phrase — echoes of totalitarian regimes of the past,” said Rather.

In April 2018, The New York Times editorial board warned that Trump’s constant pointing out of journalists at his rallies as “those people back there… the fake news” isn’t just Trump being Trump — it’s dangerous.

“Many people, including many Republican lawmakers, dismiss President Trump’s attacks on The Washington Post, CNN, and other news organizations as just one of those crazy — but ultimately harmless — things he does to blow off steam. They’re wrong,” stated the NYT editorial board.

The United Nations (UN) and Inter-American experts on freedom of expression have condemned Trump’s repeated attacks on the free press, and urged him and his administration to cease efforts to undermine the media’s role of holding government accountable, honest and transparent.

“The attack on the media goes beyond President Trump’s language. We also urge his entire administration, including the Department of Justice, to avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources, an effort that undermines the independence of the media and the ability of the public to have access to information,” said David Kaye and Edison Lanza, in a joint statement on behalf of the UN and Commission on Human Rights.