RTDNA urges journalists to watch their backs after latest POTUS attacks

August 23, 2017 01:30

In a campaign-style rally in Phoenix Tuesday, President Donald Trump unleashed his most vicious attacks to date on the U.S news media, prompting the RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to urge journalists across the country to be extra mindful of their safety.
Apparently reacting to coverage of his response to recent racial and civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president unleashed his harshest vitriol yet against journalists who have covered his administration in a manner of which he clearly disapproves. As reported in the New York Times:
“It’s time to expose the crooked media deceptions,” Mr. Trump said. He added, “They’re very dishonest people.”

“The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news,” he said. …

Returning repeatedly to Charlottesville, he said the news media failed to focus on anarchists, who he said turned out in their “helmets and the black masks — Antifa,” Mr. Trump said, spitting out the nickname for the anti-fascist groups.

Mr. Trump accused the news media of “trying to take away our history and our heritage,” an apparent reference to the debate over removing statues to heroes of the Confederacy, which prompted the rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville.

The president singled out a familiar list of malefactors — including the “failing New York Times,” which he erroneously said had apologized for its coverage of the 2016 election; CNN; and The Washington Post, which he described as a lobbying arm for Amazon, the company controlled by the newspaper’s owner, Jeff Bezos.

Pointing repeatedly to the cameras in the middle of a cavernous convention center, Mr. Trump whipped the crowd into fevered chants of “CNN Sucks.” Members of the audience shouted epithets at reporters, some demanding that the news media stop tormenting the president with questions about his ties to Russia.

“Throughout his campaign, and throughout his first seven months in office, the president has consistently tried to make responsible journalists the villains in his effort to fire up his political base. We know that this kind of rhetoric has emboldened some people who don’t like, or don’t understand, the news media to act out against reporters and photojournalists at the national and local levels,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA incoming executive director, who spearheads the task force.
During the Charlottesville protests on August 11 and August 12, at least four journalists were attacked by people in the crowd. They are among at least 15 reporters and photojournalists who have been assaulted or accosted this year, as documented by the nonpartisan U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which RTDNA is a founding partner.
“As long as the person with the most powerful bully pulpit in the world continues to attack verbally the news media, journalists are at risk,” Shelley added. “We urge reporters and photojournalists to be vigilant, and to take whatever steps they feel necessary to protect their personal safety while fulfilling their Constitutionally-guaranteed duty to seek and report the truth.”
Many of RTDNA’s coverage guidelines address actions reporters can take to safeguard their safety. Also, one of RTDNA’s founding partners in the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the Committee to Protect Journalists, has published an extensive Journalist Security Guide.
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 pressfreedom@rtdna.org.