In order to sustain a vibrant democracy, the freedom and integrity of the press is one of the most vital aspects. Without an independent news media holding our government and leaders accountable, we begin to slide towards authoritarianism.
The infamous term, ‘fake news’ coined by our very own president is now being used by this administration to degrade, defile and manipulate anything our president finds to his dislike. The tactic of attacking any media outlet whose coverage is unfavorable to the administration is a characteristic of any autocratic government.
Although it did not originate with Donald Trump, our president has mounted a frightening, unabashed assault on news outlets while facing no repercussions for his actions. He has threatened, insulted and verbally attacked journalists during his campaign rallies.
According to Freedomhouse.org, a troubling analysis found what has been obvious to many: “United States President Trump has disparaged the press, rejecting the news media’s role in holding governments to account for their words and actions.”
Not only has Trump rejected the role of the news media, he has openly and consistently declared us the ‘enemy of the people’; at a rally held in Ohio, he pointed to the reporters present and stated they were ‘fake, fake, disgusting news’.
On a nearly daily basis, the president and his administration spout misleading or outright false claims on economic growth, crime, and immigration, just to name a few areas. This is unprecedented in our nation’s history, while the implications are not just within our borders.
New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger met with the president in late July to warn him of the dangers of his anti-media rhetoric; it is contributing to the rise in threats against journalists. Declaring journalists as the enemy of the people by a sitting U.S. President also gives foreign autocrats their own justifications for suppressing speech they dislike.
The frightening aspect of this is the spread of actual fake news through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The Russian government used this disinformation to undermine American liberal democracy; this is a fact and is not debatable, no matter what our president believes.
It is the job of the news media to hold those in power accountable, regardless of ideology or political party. More importantly, it is the job of the people to decipher fact from fiction, and respectable journalists do their best to do so.
Journalists around the world put their lives at risk every day so that people can get the real, hard news about what is happening around them and around the world. There is a journalist code of ethics when they report news; respectable journalists don’t simply make things up out of the blue.
It is imperative that news outlets, regardless of ideology or political views, hold this president and his administration accountable for their actions. This country cannot begin to accept the term ‘fake news’ despite enablers such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Kellyanne Conway who perpetuate it.
Give credit to the president when credit is due but do not continue to allow him and his Twitter feed to spread lies and threaten fellow journalists.
Do not let our democracy die.