Fri | Nov 16, 2018

Reporters Without Borders alarmed by White House revocation of CNN correspondent's press credentials

Published:Thursday | November 8, 2018 | 11:29 AM
United States President Donald Trump

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it's shocked by the unbridled hostility United States President Donald Trump exhibited toward several White House correspondents during a press conference yesterday, which culminated in the revocation of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's White House press credentials.

RSF says this punitive action is undemocratic and sends a chilling message to those watching about how the president of the United States ought to behave towards reporters asking him tough questions.

“The revocation of Mr. Acosta’s White House press pass, especially on fabricated grounds, is an absolute blow to freedom of the press,” said Margaux Ewen, director of RSF’s North America bureau.

“This severe measure, paired with the president’s treatment of several other esteemed White House reporters, is unacceptable given the already hostile environment for reporters in the United States. President Trump has continued to refer to journalists as the ‘enemy of the people’ and fails to treat them or their profession with respect. Now he appears to be retaliating against a reporter for asking tough questions of his administration by denying him access. The White House must cease its continuous assault on the First Amendment.”

Hours after a press conference Trump held that quickly turned hostile, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders explained on Twitter that Acosta’s hard press pass had been suspended because he “placed his hands on” a White House aide working at the press conference, although C-SPAN’s live coverage of the event directly contradicts this.

Regardless, Sanders shared a video that reporting shows was manipulated to make Acosta look like he was aggressive toward the woman. In response, CNN called the decision “retaliation” based on “an incident that never happened.”

The US president repeatedly interrupted Acosta during the press conference as he attempted to ask questions about the migrant “caravan” and the Russia investigation, and a White House aide attempted to pull the microphone out of Acosta’s hand. President Trump said, “That's enough. Put down the mic. CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn't be working for CNN.” He later told Acosta: “When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.”

During the press conference, several other reporters were the target of Trump’s hostility. When NBC News reporter Peter Alexander defended Acosta’s work as a journalist, President Trump responded: “I’m not a big fan of yours either, to be honest.”

This rebuke was preceded by Trump telling April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, to “sit down” when she attempted to ask him a question after he called on a different reporter. Not long after, the president accused PBS Newshour reporter Yamiche Alcindor of asking a “racist question” when she pointed out that his professed “nationalism” has been interpreted by some as an embrace of white nationalism.

Just weeks ago, CNN was targeted with three suspicious packages that resembled the 14 pipe bombs a private individual is suspected to have sent to other prominent critics of Trump. Law enforcement intercepted the most recent package, which was addressed to CNN’s Atlanta headquarters, and CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker issued a memo on October 29 reassuring the public that there was “no imminent danger to the CNN Center”.

The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index after falling two places in the last year.