By Vijay Darda
This is the most tempestuous time for the media all over the world, but it is natural to be worried if efforts are made to stifle the media even in a strong democratic country like America. The situation can be judged from the fact that American President Donald Trump is openly calling the media a traitor. In reality, he is exceeding his brief.
Earlier this month, Trump lost his cool when being questioned by CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He called Acosta rude and told the staff to snatch mike away from Acosta. Consequently, there was a very strong debate. Trump has even alleged that the media is behaving like an enemy.
Actually, Acosta had asked questions about the migrants coming from Central America, Mexico, which Trump has described as a threat to the country. Trump told the reporter, “Let me run the country, you run CNN.”
Shortly after this press conference, Acosta’s press accreditation was suspended. Trump was so furious that he tweeted that CNN is presenting the US very wrongly to the world. CNN also tweeted “CNN does not have the task of presenting America to the world. That’s your business. Our job is to report news.”
It is not that Trump is just quarreling with CNN. He is also spewing venom against newspapers such as The New York Times and Washington Post. The American media is wondering why Trump is doing all this.
Recently, The New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger called on Trump and explained to him that his mounting attack on the news media was harmful to the US. But after the meeting, Trump attacked The New York Times with the help of social media.
However, CNN sought refuge in the court against Acosta’s suspension of the White House press accreditation. After the initial hearing, the court ordered restoration of Acosta’s press accreditation. This indeed is a big setback for Trump and a big win for the media there.
Actually, since Trump has come to power, he has given a new nationalist slogan of ‘America First’. Trump started attacking the media by turning this slogan into a weapon. They want the media to just praise him. In every way, he is trying to suppress the media.
Distressed by Trump’s antagonism, the media has also sworn that it will give a fitting reply. About three months back, American newspapers took a significant and historic step. The 146-year-old newspaper, Boston Globe, urged all newspapers across the country to publish an editorial on ‘free press’ simultaneously.
Interestingly, the day we were celebrating Indian Independence Day, 300 US newspapers were writing editorials on Trump’s antics. These editorials were printed on August 16!
I’m referring to The New York Times editorial. The newspaper wrote that there were a lot of attacks on the press this year by government officials. It may be that some news is underplayed or overplayed. Some news may be visible or less visible!
If something is printed wrong then it can be criticized. Reporters and editors are also human beings. They can make mistakes. It is our obligation to correct them. But to call the news that you don’t like as fake is too much. In fact, it is harmful for democracy. It is also extremely unbecoming to call journalists an enemy of the people.
Other newspapers also wrote similar editorials and tried to warn Trump against targeting and throttling the media. It is the moral duty of the media to convey facts to the common man.
I would like to admire the struggle and courage of the American media which has refused to bow to Trump’s ‘neo-nationalism’. This is very important for democracy because if the media becomes a puppet in the hands of the powers that be, it will be easier for any politician to become a dictator.
No corruption will be brought out and the will of politician will become the law, and will be implemented as such. Indeed, the media restraint is very important on the system of power. Independent media is very important not only for America but also to keep democracy alive the world over.
Vijay Darda has been the chief visionary and driving force behind Lokmat, a leading multi-platform media company. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the Feroze Gandhi Memorial Award for excellence in journalism in 1990-91.
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