United Nations officials said President Trump needs to stop his attacks on the media, particularly as “he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations.”
David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and a professor at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, and Edison Lanza, an Uruguayan lawyer who serves as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, said in remarks released Thursday by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that Trump branding media as the “enemy of the American people” or “fake news” was trying to undercut reporters’ job of holding government accountable.
“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” said the rapporteurs, adding that “these attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law.”
“We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence,” they said.
Kaye and Lanza called it “critical that the U.S. administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation.”
“To this end, we urge President Trump not only to stop using his platform to denigrate the media but to condemn these attacks, including threats directed at the press at his own rallies,” they said, two days after CNN staff were cursed at and flipped off during a live feed from Trump’s Tampa rally on Tuesday.
“The attack on the media goes beyond President Trump’s language. We also urge his entire administration, including the Department of Justice, to avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources, an effort that undermines the independence of the media and the ability of the public to have access to information,” the UN officials continued. “We urge the government to stop pursuing whistle-blowers through the tool of the Espionage Act, which provides no basis for a person to make an argument about the public interest of such information.”
“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. We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.”
Lanza and Kaye urged media to stand up for each other, as “two years of attacks on the press could have long-term negative implications for the public’s trust in media and public institutions.”
In June, a spokeswoman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said his office was “deeply concerned that the zero tolerance policy recently put in place along the U.S. southern border has led to people caught entering the country irregularly being subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children – including extremely young children– taken away from them as a result.”
The spokeswoman said that “children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status” and it “always constitutes a child rights violation.”