(CNSNews.com) - A new report by the group Reporters Without Borders ranking 180 countries according to press freedom showed the United States slipped two places, which the report blamed on President Donald Trump.
The 2018 World Press Freedom Index reflects “growing animositly towards journalists.”
“In North America, Donald Trump’s USA slipped another two places while Justin Trudeau’s Canada rose four and entered the top 20 at 18th place, a level where the situation is classified as ‘fairly good,’” the report stated.
“Despite having strong constitutional protections to the contrary, the latest World Press Freedom Index findings on the US and Canada reveal two countries whose journalists and media workers face constant challenges to the very freedom to exercise their profession,” the index stated.
“The United States’ ranking fell from 43 to 45 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index, continuing its downward trend in the first year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency. In contrast, its northern neighbor Canada gained 4 places due to steps taken to safeguard the confidentiality of journalists’ sources,” it added.
“In 2017, the 45th President of the United States helped sink the country to 45th place by labeling the press an ‘enemy of the American people’ in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempts to block White House access to multiple media outlets, routine use of the term ‘fake news’ in retaliation for critical reporting, and calling for media outlets’ broadcasting licenses to be revoked,” the report stated.
As an example of its premise, the index cited Trump’s singling out of “news outlets and individual journalists for their coverage of him” retweeting “several violent memes targeting CNN.”
“The violent anti-press rhetoric from the White House has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions. Reporters have even been subject to physical assault while on the job,” it stated.
When asked about the report and whether the White House accepts that Trump’s comments have “denigrated out freedom of the press in the United States,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Certainly would not -- would reject the idea that the president or this administration has halted freedom of the press.”
“I think we're one of the most accessible administrations that we've seen in decades. I think by mere presence of standing up here and taking your questions, un-vetted, is a pretty good example of freedom of the press, and I think it's ridiculous to suggest otherwise,” Sanders said.
CNN’s Jim Acosta asked, “Are you trying to say that this administration is a champion of a free press?”
SANDERS: I certainly think that, as I stated a moment ago, we support a free press but we also support a fair press, and I think that those things should go hand in hand, and there's a certain responsibility by the press to report accurate information. I think a number of people --
ACOSTA: Isn't there a certain responsibility on the part of the president --
SANDERS: I think a number of people in this room do that every single day. They do their very best to provide fair and accurate information. I certainly support that, and that's one of the reasons I'm standing here taking your questions, and a lot of times taking your questions in a tone that's completely unnecessary, unneeded, and, frankly, doesn’t help further the conversation or help the American people get any more information in a better way, which is your job and my job, and that's what I'm trying to do.
ACOSTA: I fully appreciate that…. but the president's tone towards the press is obviously not helpful at times.
The index said that press freedom violations have become so frequent that Reporters Without Borders has joined a coalition of more than two dozen press freedom organizations to launch the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which documented 34 arrests of journalists in 2017, most of whom were arrested while covering protests.
“However, the Trump effect has only served to amplify the disappointing press freedom climate that predated his presidency. Whistleblowers face prosecution under the Espionage Act if they leak information of public interest to the press, while there is still no federal ‘shield law’ guaranteeing reporters’ right to protect their sources,” the index stated.
“Journalists and their devices continue to be searched at the US border, while some foreign journalists are still denied entry into the US after covering sensitive topics like Colombia’s FARC or Kurdistan,” it added.
“The US’ 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,” the report stated.
“Democratic governments from several countries in the Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS), have adopted Trump’s favorite phrase when criticizing the work of journalists. Given that criminal defamation still remains on the books in many Caribbean countries, the spread of Trump’s anti-media rhetoric could have very serious consequences for the local press,” it predicted.