Donald Trump’s disdain for media organizations, including the one you’re reading right now, is well-documented. He’s referred to CNN as “the Clinton Network,” accused The New York Times’ writers of not being able to “write good,” and called the New York Daily News “a dying tabloid.”
But the Republican presidential nominee took his hatred a step further Wednesday night and insulted all news outlets at once.
His language is troubling because it reflects more than just his love for insulting people and things. Trump’s anti-media attitude extends beyond words into actions.
The businessman regularly blocks journalists and outlets from attending his events. His staff and security have kicked reporters out of rallies and press conferences for attempting to interview supporters or asking questions he didn’t like.
Most concerning, though, are Trump’s vows to dial back free press by strengthening libel laws and suing media outlets. A 2008 UNESCO study of worldwide media sovereignty concluded that “freedom of expression is essential to the exercise of all other rights.”
“Without it, peoples cannot be aware of their rights and, less still, secure respect for them,” the report said. “A free press is the channel of communication between the public and its rulers, revealing the needs of the population and its attitudes towards public policies.”
A free press which is able to provide checks and balances to government actions is essential to a modern, functioning democracy. As the Miami Herald argues, without transparency, America simply cannot be a government ruled “by the people, for the people.”
“This free flow of information to the public is essential to preserving our American democracy,” the Herald said. “In addition to educating and reporting, the press serves as the public’s independent watchdog, charged with keeping governments, businesses and other organizations in check. What other institution has the power to talk to key leaders, inspire social change and uncover corruption, while analyzing and providing context for major global events? Thanks to diligent reporting, citizens are empowered to take a stance on critical issues, enact change and demand the best from their leaders.”
Trump’s vindictive attitude toward the media suggests he’d limit its ability to cover his presidency, should he be elected. It’s in line with his unwillingness to accept criticism, relentlessly insulting anyone who challenges him and refusing to admit when he’s wrong.
A Trump presidency could be disastrous for press freedoms. And that’s something we should be very, very afraid of.