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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsProgressive Pundit

Free press is a cornerstone of democracy

Since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, free press has been a vital part of American democracy. President Donald Trump and his administration are currently a threat to maintaining an educated, informed population.

During his first press conference after being elected, Trump berated a CNN reporter who was trying to ask him a question, and Trump referred to CNN as “fake news.” CNN had not actually written anything untruthful about Trump, but they have released multiple stories that paint him in a negative light. News outlets should not have to fear that they will be labeled “fake” for reporting on real information. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, also showed an unwillingness to interact with the press when he criticized the press and did not take any questions during his first news conference.

During his campaign, Trump also revoked access from multiple press organizations for giving him negative coverage, including The Washington Post. He did not like some stories the paper published, but there was no merit behind the president calling The Washington Post “phony.” Considering he has shown a willingness to ban reporters and reprimand the press, he likely will continue to obstruct the media from accurately reporting on the Trump White House.

Trump has blurred the line between the truth and “fake news” by accusing organizations he does not like of lying. By calling honest organizations fake, he is setting a precedent that suggests we can choose what not to believe based on a preconceived narrative. He is diminishing the credibility of the news media by equating completely made up stories to news that is verifiably accurate. And he is unabashedly lying to the American public.

When Trump denies access to news organizations, he is creating a bias that could prevent Americans from getting the full story. Some stories inevitably have negative implications, even if they are reported truthfully. If journalists are worried about their access being revoked, they might be pressured to start reporting only in a way that benefits the Trump administration or covering up the truth, which would go completely against the goal of informing the public.

Our democracy relies on citizens making informed decisions, and obstructing the press is the same as obstructing access to information. Without a free and fair press, the United States cannot be a true democracy.