Media Attacks on US President Trump Remind Us To Value Freedom of Press

On Aug. 16, more than 350 American newspaper editorial boards responded to U.S. President Donald Trump’s attack on the “fake news media” as the “opposition party.” It is unusual for a nation’s media to strike back at the current president in such a manner, hundreds from across the country on the same day. Trump may have “twisted the lion’s tail” by calling the critical media “fake news,” because many Americans are now agreed that such behavior threatens democracy and the nation’s highly valued freedom of the press.

These 350-plus newsrooms responded to The Boston Globe’s editorial “Journalists Are Not the Enemy,” which initiated the revolt with the statement that “replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country.”

The New York Times’ editorial, “A Free Press Needs You” also stated on the same day that “Criticizing the news media […] is entirely right. […] But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy.” The editorial emphasized the importance of the freedom of the press with a reference to Thomas Jefferson, who famously wrote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Ever since his inauguration, President Trump has consistently called the critical media the “enemy of the people,” and recently even refused to answer a CNN reporter’s question, telling him, “you are fake news.” His relentless attack on the press is spreading the wrong idea to his Republican followers, 51 percent of whom recently responded to a poll saying that the press is the “enemy of the people.”

Hence the reason these 350 editorial boards responded, out of concern for the negative impact Trump will have on America’s First Amendment, the freedom of speech and of the press.

In an April report by Reporters Without Borders, South Korea was rated 43rd in the world for freedom of press, ranking higher than the U.S. (45th) and Japan (67th). It is true that we Koreans are slowly recovering after plummeting to 70th place in 2016, but we still need to work on keeping our press free from technological threats such as hacking, online comment manipulation, as well as pressure from power, interest groups, and capital. We hope that this unprecedented event in America will remind our Korean citizens of the importance of free press once again.

*Editor’s note: Although this editorial was written several weeks ago, the editors feel that its message remains relevant.

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