David Kaye, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, issued a joint statement on Thursday condemning President Donald Trump’s verbal attacks on the media, saying his administration needs to promote a “vibrant” free press and stop going after journalists.
“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” Kaye and Lanza said in the statement.
“These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law,” the experts added.
Kaye and Lanza noted that the president frequently labels the press as “enemy of the American people,” “very dishonest” or “fake news.”
Trump has accused the media of “distorting democracy” and spreading “conspiracy theories and blind hatred,” the experts said.
“Each time the President calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavoured outlets, he suggests nefarious motivations or animus,” they continued.
“But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations,” the pair added.
Kaye and Lanza also implored members of Trump’s administration to stop undermining the media’s role in “holding government accountable, honest and transparent.”
The statement from UN experts came the same day that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say, during Thursday’s press briefing, that the press was not the enemy of the people.
Kaye and Lanza also called on the Trump administration to avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources.
“We stand with the independent media in the United States, a community of journalists and publishers and broadcasters long among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide,” the UN experts said. “We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.”
“Two years of attacks on the press could have long term negative implications for the public’s trust in media and public institutions,” Kaye and Lanza said. “Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks.”