Despite constitutional protections, press freedom in the United States is declining under the reign of “media-bashing enthusiast” President Donald Trump, which seems to have global repercussions, according to an international watchdog’s new analysis.
For the second straight year, the United States dropped two spots, and now ranks 45th on the latest World Press Freedom Index, published annually by Reporters Sans Frontières—also known as RSF, or Reporters Without Borders.
The index’s release comes amid mounting warnings about the dangers of Trump’s attacks on the news media, which he has called “the enemy of the American people.” In January, the president unveiled his so-called Fake News Awards—a stunt that was widely ridiculed by journalists and free speech advocates, who said: “We laugh about the #FakeNewsAwards but it is in fact quite terrifying and chilling. This is what happens in dictatorships and fascist regimes.”
In a series of posts published alongside the index, RSF explained: “The U.S.’s decline in press freedom is not simply bad news for journalists working inside the country; the downward trend has drastic consequences at the international level. ‘Fake news’ is now a trademark excuse for media repression, in both democratic and authoritarian regimes.”
“When foreign leaders see the U.S. president denounce the media on a regular basis, it gives them free rein to do the same,” Margaux Ewen, RSF’s North America director, told the Washington Post. “We see it in authoritarian countries, but alarmingly we also see the impact in democratic ones, too.”
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As RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire put it, “The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies.”
“Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility,” Deloire added, “because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda.”
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