2016 US presidential election: What does Trump’s victory mean for press freedoms?
So it’s been a month since Trump won the presidential election on a wave of fake news, fake minority outreach and an 11th hour email head fake by James Comey. During the campaign, Trump lied with the ease of breathing and made promises he knew he could never keep.
So what effect does Trump’s victory have on future elections? What problems will this cause for us as the future generation of voters?
Recently we have been constantly overwhelmed by news channels reporting about Trump’s new appointments to his cabinet but none of them question the risk of Trump’s presidency upon freedom of press and freedom of speech. The founders enshrined such freedoms in the First amendment. The United States has served as the premier international advocate of these sacred principles, ensuring that our freedom of speech is not jeopardized. But when you look back on Trump's election campaign, you will see that he relentlessly attacked and mocked journalists, fostering a hostile environment in which his supporters joined in to taunt and threaten the press.
Let's take the example of Megyn Kelly, an American journalist and political commentator on the Fox News Channel. At the first FOX Republican presidential debate, Kelly was targeted by then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after she said “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” Trump criticized the Fox News host in the days after the debate, telling CNN, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” His obsession with shaming her on television and subsequent interviews caused Megyn Kelly to receive multiple death threats in the following weeks. This not only shows the threat that Trump’s words poses on people’s lives but the fact that he has the power to control and bully journalists into saying what he wants them to say. This essentially stops journalists from doing their job.
If this incident has not convinced you that Trump is a threat to the freedom of speech in America, consider this - the fact that vitriol from Trump's fans has continued on the internet. In April, the Jewish journalist Julia Ioffe received a barrage of anti-Semitic abuse and death threats after she wrote a critical profile of Trump’s wife Melania for GQ magazine. In October, Bethany Mandel, a conservative reporter who wrote about her opposition to Trump, had been so violently attacked on social media that she felt compelled to purchase a gun for protection. This is clearly not an unavoidable consequence of a contentious political campaign. This is an exceptional circumstance brought about by the gutter rants of Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn his supporters for attacking journalists. If we look at how easily other leaders like Sisi in Egypt, Erdogan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, the Ayatollahs in Iran, have slid from branding journalists as sympathizers to putting them to jail, and when we look at Trump’s behavior and comments made during his campaign, there is clear evidence to show that his leadership can cost American journalists and subsequently journalists around the world their careers.
If press freedoms are not defended with maximum resolve in the United States, it will be impossible to promote and defend such a fundamental principle anywhere in the world. Therefore, I urge all of you, as citizens of a country that respects free speech, to speak out and share your views with others who may not have the same views as you, so that we can work to bridge the increasing ideological divide around the world.
Trinity Donohugh is currently attending High School in the UK and is one of the Founders of Discuss for Change. She is passionate about politics, international affairs and Computer science. She is the founder & CEO of the student led non-profit Girlsforcs (www.girlsforcs.org). She is also the co-founder of the social enterprise Khonaa (www.khonaa.com). She is also an alumni of the Yale Young Global Scholars Program 2016.