As Donald Trump unveiled his “Fake News Awards,” Reporters Without Borders, the international press freedom advocacy group, lambasted the U.S. president for “grotesque” behavior and actions “unworthy of the country that adopted the First Amendment.”
In the first year of his presidency, Trump “has not let one week go by without attacking and denigrating journalists,” the Paris-based nonprofit said on its website Wednesday.
“Trump’s behavior is gradually pushing the United States towards an anti-journalist climate worthy of the worst countries for press freedom, although he swore to protect and defend this freedom at his inauguration,” the group’s secretary-general, Christophe Deloire, said in a statement. “By attacking journalists in this way and grotesquely treating the media as children, Donald Trump poses a major threat to U.S. democracy.”
The Reporters Without Borders statement adds to fierce criticism of Trump’s administration by journalism advocacy groups. The Committee to Protect Journalists this month awarded Trump the title of the world’s most oppressive leader toward press freedom, and likened him to strongmen like Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who “have gone above and beyond to silence critical voices and weaken democracy.”
Reporters Without Borders, reacting to Trump’s “Fake News Awards,” said it was launching a social media campaign ridiculing the president’s anti-media rhetoric. It mockingly shows other world anti-press world leaders, including Turkey’s Erdogan, China’s Xi Jinping, and Iran’s Ali Khamenei, praising Trump for “his efforts and his creativity in trampling on media freedom.”
“With humor, this campaign points out that the U.S. president’s actions are unworthy of the country that adopted the First Amendment,” Deloire said.
Trump shared his “Fake News Awards” via Twitter on Wednesday night, linking to a GOP website post listing 10 news stories from media outlets including CNN and The New York Times that the president had deemed “fake.”
Many of the stories on the list had been corrected or amended by the outlets that had published them. All were critical of Trump or his administration.
Trump’s promotion of the so-called awards prompted backlash from people on both sides of the aisle.
Stuart Stevens, a veteran Republican strategist, told Politico that Trump’s peddling of the list was “an attack on the First Amendment.”
In a Washington Post op-ed this week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blasted Trump’s “unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets,” which he said was providing “cover for repressive regimes” in other parts of the world.
“The phrase ‘fake news’ — granted legitimacy by an American president — is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens,” McCain wrote.
Reporters Without Borders said America’s reputation as an advocate for media freedom is rapidly eroding.
“After falling two places last year, the United States is currently ranked 43rd out of 180 countries in [our] World Press Freedom Index,” the nonprofit said.
The U.S. “will almost certainly fall even further” in the rankings for the 2018 index, the group said.