Trump a threat to press freedom - UN

  • 31/08/2017

The United Nations' top human rights official says derogatory remarks by US President Donald Trump about journalists could amount to incitement and embolden followers to attack certain communities.

Trump, speaking in Arizona last week, defended his response to a white supremacist-organised rally in Virginia and criticised news organisations for their coverage of the violence in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville, calling journalists "truly dishonest people".

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said: "It's really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only sort of a cornerstone of the US Constitution but very much something that the United States defended over the years is now itself under attack from the President.

"It's sort of a stunning turnaround. And ultimately the sequence is a dangerous one," he told a news conference.

Mr Zeid also referred to Trump's accusations that the media produce lies and fake news and his repeated verbal attacks on the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN.

"Is this not incitement for others to attack journalists?" Mr Zeid replied when asked about current events in the US. The UN chief was speaking the during a press conference devoted to human rights violations in Venezuela.

"And let's assume that a journalist is harmed from one of these organisations: Does the President then not bear responsibility for this; for having fanned this?" he asked.

In June, Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte was fined and sentenced to community service after he body-slammed a reporter of the British newspaper The Guardian.

Mr Trump's rhetoric is starting to have repercussions outside the US, Zeid said.

In Cambodia, a government official recently cited Mr Trump's stance towards media to justify a threat against foreign broadcasters.

Cambodian authorities carried out the threats last week when they revoked broadcasting licenses for Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. They also cracked down on independent domestic media outlets.