A dominant narrative driven by President Trump and his administration has been that certain new organizations spread misinformation and are fundamentally dishonest. By examining which news organizations are condemned, it is evident that those who criticize Trump and his administration are demonized publicly regardless of the credibility of information presented. Trump has often used his platform to insult the press and single out reporters in front of large groups of supporters on the basis of coverage he dislikes. United Nations experts recently released a statement condemning President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the press, and warning that the U.S. leader’s rhetoric is eroding public trust in the media and could spark violence against journalists. This was evident during a rally in Florida last week where attendees were heard shouting insults at journalists covering the event.
Since barring certain news outlets from covering Trump’s campaign rallies, the White House has been criticized for banning a CNN reporter last week from covering an event open to the press after she had repeatedly directed questions to the president about his relationship with former attorney, Michael Cohen. UN experts stated that “each time the President calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavored outlets, he suggests nefarious motivations or animus.” However, they pointed out that not even one time was he able to show any specific reporting that was driven by untoward motivations.
In a time of widespread misinformation on social media, news organizations are embedded into society as a credible and trusted source of information. While viewer ratings may drive which news topics are placed at the forefront, accurate and verifiable facts must be a prerequisite for TV and print news. The narrative of fake news has been criticized by UN experts as being a strategic effort which aims to undermine confidence in news reporting and the credibility of verifiable facts. An implication of this shift in public perception of news organizations is that individuals may isolate their source of information to a select outlet based on shared beliefs and supporting ideologies while discrediting all other sources under this narrative of fake news. The undermining of journalism can also be reflected to threaten the democratic process which ensures the freedom of press and for professional journalism to hold public officials accountable. By discrediting news outlets which pursue unfavourable reporting against a public official, the narrative of fake news can diminish public confidence in the news report regardless of credibility. UN experts stress that Trump and his administration have continuously challenged and pursued to undermine uncovered fraud, abuse, potential illegal conduct and disinformation.
While certain news coverage may be disliked by Trump and his administration, entire organizations and specific reporting should not be excluded and publicly condemned without substantial evidence of falsification. Governments have a responsibility to not use their platforms to unfairly criticize the media in order to drive particular narratives and shift public opinion.
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