The Executive Committee, World Editors Forum and Media Freedom boards of the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers has called on President Donald Trump to stop his attacks on the press, rejecting his repeated accusation that the media is the “enemy of the American people”.
The group also asked the Trump’s administration to work on its relationship with the media.
A letter signed by 40 editors-in-chiefs, CEOs and publishers, from across the world, described as worrisome Trump’s regular labelling of mainstream news outlets’ reports as ‘fake news’ and the exclusion of critical media outlets from a recent White House press briefing.
They said the development signalled a worrying decline in accountability for his administration.
They said, “It is deeply unhelpful to see the President of the United States of America fuelling antagonism towards news outlets by labelling them – misleadingly – as ‘fake news’.
“We fear that the overall climate for media freedom currently being fostered by your presidency seriously jeopardises the on-going ability of a free press to hold power to account in the United States.”
The international media leaders emphasised that the president’s comments, regularly made using the social media platform Twitter, might inspire leaders in countries with weaker press freedom to stifle free speech.
They said, “At a time when journalists and news media are being increasingly targeted for violent reprisal (and, in too many cases, often deadly retribution as a result of the work they do), the tone of your comment is highly inflammatory.
“In a deeply divided America, a country facing many challenges on numerous fronts, the need for a vocal and critical press to act as the watchdog over essential freedoms on behalf of society seems more urgent than ever.”
WAN-IFRA urged the president to “welcome and encourage the kind of rigorous self-criticism a free media upholds as a means of ensuring the highest attainable standards of governance,” calling for a meeting between his administration and representatives of the global media to discuss rebuilding a better relationship.