On the 24th of February mainstream news sources, which were previously slated by President Trump, were barred from attending a White House news briefing by White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. The outlets barred included The BBC, The New York Times, The LA Times, CNN, Buzzfeed and Politico.
Previously, on the 14th of February, The New York Times put the Trump administration in hot water after they revealed that “phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election”
It was later revealed that the report, aforementioned, was the reason for barring The New York Times, as confirmed by Sean Spicer in the briefing.
The outlets permitted mostly comprised of right-wing outlets who were sympathetic to the Trump administration such as Breitbart, Fox, and One America News Network.
In the aftermath, the decision was criticised fervently by the left-wing press and even FOX News, who felt the bar was an attack on the 1st amendment. Dean Baquet of the New York Times commented:
“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,”
The New York Times then posted the following infographic to their Facebook page:
The White House Correspondents’ Association, a non-profit organisation that covers the White House and the President, stated: “The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House.” The Association’s President Jeff Mason said in a statement: “We encourage the organisations that were allowed in to share the material with others,” he added. “The board will be discussing this further with White House staff.”
Despite the overwhelming support from Trump’s cult following of free-speech activists, the President is yet to show any respect for freedom of the press or the right to free speech. When Trump allows liberal news outlets to be barred from attending his briefings, he opposes what the “leader of the free world” should represent – freedom, as supported by a free press, and the 1st amendment.
Previously at the Conservative Political action Conference, Trump slammed the media, saying: “I want you all to know that we’re fighting the fake news, it’s fake, phony, fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the ‘enemy of the people’ and they are, they are the enemy of the people, because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none.”
Speaking of the first amendment, trump commented: “It gives me the right to criticize fake news, and criticize it strongly.”
The plight derived from Trump’s description of ‘fake news’, is that his definition appears to be aimed at the media that scrutinizes him as opposed to the official definition, which is defined as “news which is completely made up and designed to deceive readers to maximize traffic and profit.” This was extraordinarily evident when he labeled CNN as “fake news” and shut down their reporter exercising his right to reply.
This tactic of setting the American people against the media, a body which serves as a bedrock of democracy, is typical of a dictatorial regime. And while it’s painfully cliche to draw comparisons to one fascist regime, the Nazis, Trump’s labeling of the media as ‘fake news’ stands chillingly reminiscent of the Nazi’s indictment of the press as the lügenpresse – the lying press.
Trump later took to Twitter to further slate The New York Times and CNN:
An unnamed reporter at the briefing addressed the concern of censorship, saying: “One more question just about the idea that it seems as though you’re playing favorites with media outlets by excluding some from this conversation” to which Mr. Spicer responded: “I think that we have shown an abundance of accessibility. We’ve brought more reporters into this process. And the idea that every time that every single person can’t get their question answered or fit in a room that we’re excluding people — we’ve actually gone above and beyond with making ourselves, our team and our briefing room, more accessible than probably any prior administration. So I think you can take that to the bank.”
In the aftermath of the briefing, Spicer drew criticism for hypocrisy, after various news outlets had dug up the following quote Spicer made in December 2016: “We have a respect for the press when it comes to the government. That is something that you can’t ban an entity from. That’s what makes a democracy a democracy, versus a dictatorship.”
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