The RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force is expressing concern about new, more vigorous efforts by President Trump and his campaign organization to fuel anti-news media sentiment among Americans who don’t like, or don’t understand the role of, responsible journalism.
On Sunday, one day after journalists risked their safety to inform the public about civil unrest between white nationalists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Va., Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., launched a new video ad in which it “excoriates” the media for “attacking our president.”
The ad features images of broadcast journalists Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd, Brian Williams, George Stephanopoulos, April Ryan, Dana Bash, and Brian Stelter, along with a few political commentators, positioning them as attackers of the president.
“We’re used to President Trump and some of his supporters labeling the news media as ‘fake news’ and the ‘enemy of the American people.’ But when their criticism goes too far, we have to speak out. Positioning responsible journalists as attackers, and blasting out images that appear to advocate violence targeting reporters, is deplorable,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director, who spearheads the task force.
In early July, the president tweeted a GIF showing him pummeling a man who had a CNN logo superimposed over his face. That led the task force to issue a statement urging reporters not to be intimidated by Mr. Trump’s apparent endorsement of violence against journalists.
During the past several months, RTDNA has been notified of several incidents in which reporters and photojournalists have been obstructed, harassed, threatened, arrested, and assaulted merely for doing their jobs. Many of those cases are documented on the new U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a joint project of RTDNA, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and about 20 other journalism associations.
According to the tracker, at least two journalists were attacked during the Charlottesville protests, one on Friday, August 11 by an apparent white supremacist, and the other on Saturday, August 12 by an apparent counter-protestor.
“One can’t help but conclude that those who perpetrated the Charlottesville attacks on a reporter and a photojournalist, as well as the increasing number of other threats to press freedom this year, are acting a result of the inflammatory anti-news media rhetoric coming from the president and some of his reporters,” Shelley said. “Responsible journalists are not ‘attacking’ you, Mr. President. We are merely serving the public by reporting the facts as we know them. Some of your supporters, however, are among those attacking and otherwise obstructing us. The real victim is the public’s right, and need, to know the truth.”
RTDNA formed the Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. People wishing to support RTDNA’s efforts may reach out to the task force by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.