The International Press Freedom Mission to the United States has said in its report that the US media is facing serious challenges to freedom of the press. The mission was carried out in January 2018, a year after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.
The International Press Institute (IPI) joined the 2018 press freedom mission, which was led by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and IFEX, and included ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship and Reporters Without Borders (RSF – Reporters Sans Frontières).
The mission’s report states that President’s Trump’s attacks on the media, via his Twitter account and in press conferences, are exacerbating an already hostile environment for journalists in the US.
By openly and aggressively accusing journalists and media outlets of lying and producing ‘fake news’, the current US administration risks undermining the First Amendment and creating a culture of intimidation and hostility where journalists find themselves less safe.
However, the report also identifies threats to the media that pre-date Trump. Many of these threats were present under the Obama administration, which used the Espionage Act 1917 to bring a record number of whistleblower prosecutions.
Other major threats to media freedom in the US include:
- A failure by law enforcement officials to recognize the rights of journalists to report freely on events of public interest. Journalists have been arrested and even assaulted by law enforcement officials at a local and state level, while covering protests.
- An increase in border stop and searches. Journalists have been asked to hand over electronic devices, detained or even denied entry to the US.
- A slow and unresponsive freedom of information system, which is preventing the release of information that is in the public interest.