(GIN) – Some of the most celebrated American news writers and editors were lambasted this week by the nation’s President, who derided them as “enemies of the people” and an “opposition party” with whom he’s at war.
“Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC are fake news,” the President lectured his cheering supporters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “They would love to be here tonight but they’re trapped at the (correspondents’) dinner which is very very boring.”
The news writers and editors were attending the White House Correspondents dinner which honors journalists for their work and awards scholarships to students.
Some of the most stinging lines of the night came from keynote speaker and “Daily Show” comedian Hasan Minhaj who asked: “Do I come up here and just try to fit in and not ruffle any feathers? Or do I say what I really feel? Because this event is about celebrating the First Amendment and free speech.
“Only in America can a first-generation Indian-American Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the president,” Minhaj continued. “And it’s a sign to the rest of the world… even the president is not beyond the reach of the First Amendment.”
Earlier this week, Reporters Without Borders warned that press freedom was facing serious threats in 72 countries. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) maintains that governments are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to control information and limit criticism.
Former leaders in press freedom have been slipping backwards, added Kerry Paterson of CPJ. These include Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, now cracking down on the press.
Last month in Cameroon, Ahmed Abba of Radio France International, who reported on Boko Haram, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of “non-denunciation of terrorism” and the “laundering the proceeds of terrorist acts,” according to his lawyer.
“Covering terrorism as a reporter must not be equated with committing acts of terror,” fumed CPJ’s Robert Mahoney. “Each day Abba spends behind bars is a travesty of justice.”
World Press Freedom Day, adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991, was proclaimed in response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.
This year, Dawit Isaak, an imprisoned Eritrean-Swedish journalist, was awarded a UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. The last time he was heard from was in 2005. His present location is unknown.