Reporters Without Borders says U.S. president’s actions could prompt despots, restrained democracies to target freedom of speech.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s “violent” words against the media are worrying and set a bad example for despots who could feel freer to muzzle journalists, a press rights group said on Thursday.
“Donald Trump’s attitude toward the media is extremely worrisome, of course, for the United States, for freedom of the press in that country,” said Reporters Without Borders Director General Christophe Deloire. “He never ceases—with his words, on Twitter—to be violent against journalists and we can already see a form of radicalization against journalists that is worrisome, but it’s even more troubling for the rest of the world, since he gives a truly bad example,” he said.
Trump and his aides have had a tense relationship with the media that began during the U.S. presidential campaign and has become more confrontational since his inauguration on Jan. 20. The U.S. leader has accused news organizations of peddling “fake news” and journalists of being “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.”
“Many despots or presidents of restrained democracies will seize on it, saying: ‘Look, even the U.S. president says journalists are the most dishonest people on Earth,’” Deloire said. “This will authorize some to fight journalists even harder and restrain freedom of press.”
Deloire spoke on the sidelines of a news conference to present a Reporters Without Borders report on violence against journalists in Mexico’s drug cartel-plagued eastern state of Veracruz. At least 99 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, including 17 in Veracruz in the past six years, the report said.
The violence has forced many journalists from around the country to take refuge in Mexico City, Deloire said, but some also flee abroad. “The country where most Mexican journalists go into exile is the U.S. and Trump’s remarks about migrants and journalists are evidently extremely troubling for those journalists,” he told AFP.
Trump has called Mexican migrants “rapists” and drug runners, and vowed to make Mexico pay for a massive wall across the southern U.S. border.