Tuesday 23 January 2018

Outcry at Trump ban on free press

Reporters raise their hands for questions as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference. Photo: AP
Reporters raise their hands for questions as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference. Photo: AP

David Lawler

Major news organisations including the BBC and The New York Times led criticism yesterday against Donald Trump's White House for banning media outlets from a press briefing.

The BBC, which Trump derisively labelled "a real beauty" in a recent press conference, was among those barred from the daily briefing last Friday.

Paul Danahar, BBC Americas editor, said it was "not clear" what led to the ban, adding: "The BBC's reporting of the White House will continue to be fair and impartial regardless."

Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, said the newspaper would "strongly protest" against the decision to ban it. "Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations," he said.

Trump has declared the press the "enemy of the people" and lambasted media outlets by name after reports criticising his administration.

Hours after the rant at a Conservative Political Action Conference, presidential spokesman Sean Spicer barred the two organisations - and others - from a briefing in his office. Spicer said the Trump regime had been showing "an abundance of accessibility", but that he understood why there had been complaints.

A video clip from December in which Spicer said he would not ban specific outlets because open access was "what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship" spread widely online.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Spicer's deputy, said the briefing would be limited to a small "pool" before "we decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool".

Among those invited were right-wing outlets including Breitbart News, a website once led by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon has called some media bodies "the opposition party".

Trump yesterday claimed he was not receiving sufficient credit for the state of the US economy. It also emerged that the White House enlisted senior intelligence officials and members of Congress to contact news organisations and refute reports of links between Trump's campaign aides and Russian intelligence.

Spicer confirmed that report but denied anything inappropriate had taken place.


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