NEW YORK: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based independent watchdog body,has said Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is a threat to press freedom.
The unprecedented move came after Trump strongly attacked the media for ‘framing’ him over sexual assault claims.
The CPJ issued a statement on Thursday, saying that Trump had “consistently betrayed First Amendment values.” That amendment to the US Constitution guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition.
“A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States, but the consequences for the rights of journalists around the world could be far more serious,” CPJ Board Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe said in the statement. “Any failure of the United States to uphold its own standards emboldens dictators and despots to restrict the media in their own country.”
The group said it was not picking sides in the election but rather, “recognizing that a Trump presidency represents a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.”
The CPJ’S unprecedented step also came in response to Trump’s threats to the media during his campaign, Rowe said. Since the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has insulted and vilified the press and has made his opposition to the media a centerpiece of his campaign. Trump has routinely labeled the press as “dishonest” and “scum” and singled out individual news organizations and journalists.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has routinely made vague proposals to limit basic elements of press and internet freedom. He said recently that his Democratic rival is “criminally complicit” in a media attempt to sabotage his campaign. On Thursday, he attacked US media for reporting claims he groped and forcibly kissed women, saying the
allegations were “outright lies.”
This comes as Trump faces falling ratings and a Republican party that is fast disassociating itself with him after a 2005 tape was leaked to the ‘New York Times’ in which Trump discusses using his celebrity status to sexually assault women.
The candidate’s poll ratings have plunged, with the possibility of more women coming forward before the November 8 poll.
At a rally in February, he said that, if elected president, he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” In September, Trump tweeted, “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”
First Lady Michelle Obama meanwhile attacked what she called Trump’s “disgraceful” behaviour. “Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say, enough is enough,” Mrs. Obama told a rally for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. “This has got to stop right now.”