The United Nations’ outgoing high commissioner for human rights has called out President Donald Trump’s “worrisome” attacks on the press — and suggested the U.S. leader bears “a heavy responsibility” for the safety of the world’s journalists.
“To label the press in this way is very worrisome,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told reporters in a wide-ranging interview on Monday, referring to Trump’s labeling of the media as “the enemy of the American people.”
“The president should be aware that a heavy responsibility lies on his shoulders when it comes to the way in which the media is being portrayed,” Zeid continued, adding that Trump’s actions and rhetoric could influence that of authoritarian leaders.
“We’ve seen now how they mimic President Trump and so what could already be a difficult situation in other countries becomes even more difficult for the press to operate and for journalists to uncover stories and for lawyers to do their work and for human rights defenders to do their work,” Zeid said, according to Reuters.
His comments come less than a week after a coordinated effort by American media outlets to push back against Trump’s anti-press attacks. Last Thursday, hundreds of U.S. newspapers published editorials challenging Trump. “Journalists are not the enemy,” declared the Boston Globe, which had spearheaded the campaign.
Zeid, a Jordanian prince who will be stepping down from his role as UN human rights chief at the end of the month, has not shied away from criticizing Trump in the past.
He told The Guardian earlier this month that the president’s criticism of the media was beginning to get “very close to incitement to violence.”
In June, the UN rights chief called for the Trump administration to cease their policy of forcibly separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” Zeid said at the time.