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    Categories: Commentary

Trump should defend free press, not threaten it

President Trump on Oct. 11, 2017, threatened to revoke NBC’s broadcasting license in response to a story on his request to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Trump on Wednesday once again attacked the media.

Trump in a tweet that he wrote at 9 55 a.m. asked “at what point is it appropriate to challenge” the broadcast licenses of NBC and other television networks.

Trump a few hours later told reporters during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister at the White House that it is “frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” Trump at 8:09 p.m. tweeted “network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.”

“Not fair to public,” he proclaimed.

Trump’s outbursts came against the backdrop of an NBC report that detailed his request to dramatically increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Presidential criticism of the press — and specifically Trump lashing out at the media — is certainly not out of the ordinary. Trump threatening to interfere with the ability of the press to operate freely and independently as the First Amendment outlines is certainly out of the ordinary and should spark concern among all Americans.

Some facts are in order.

The names of 2,305 journalists from around the world who have died while on assignment are part of Newseum’s Journalists Memorial in downtown D.C.

Maykel González, a gay Cuban journalist, has been detained twice over the last year because he tried to report on the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in the city of Baracoa and the government’s preparations ahead of Hurricane Irma in a portion of his hometown that was heavily damaged.

Death threats forced Elena Milashina, a reporter with the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta who broke the story of an anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya earlier this year, to go into hiding. A Russian court in August stopped the deportation of Khudoberdi Nurmatov, a gay Novaya Gazeta reporter who writes under the pen name Ali Feruz and claims he would face torture if authorities deported him to his native Uzbekistan.

Maykel González, an independent journalist and LGBT rights advocate, speaks with the Washington Blade at his home in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, on May 17, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade since January has reported from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia and Cuba.

The State Department’s 2016 human rights report indicates journalists in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia have been threatened, harassed, attacked, kidnapped and even killed. It also notes the Cuban government “directly owned all print and broadcast media outlets and all widely available sources of information.”

Journalists earlier this month covered the horrors of the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and more than 500 others injured. They are also covering the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the federal government’s grossly inadequate response that has cost lives

Journalists are covering the litany of scandals around the Trump administration that continue to put its very future into question.

This is not fake news, Mr. President.

A free press is an essential part of American democracy. Journalists in this country expect their president to vigorously and unequivocally defend it.