NEFAC, Press Groups Call President’s Attacks on the Media a Threat to Democracy

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

March 2 Statement

The New England First Amendment Coalition and more than 80 press freedom advocates recently condemned efforts by the Trump Administration to demonize the media and undermine its ability to inform the public about official actions and policies.

In a March 2 joint statement emphasizing their commitment to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the press, the groups stressed that the administration’s attacks on journalists pose a threat to American democracy.

The groups cited numerous attempts by the administration to penalize and intimidate the press for critical coverage, including refusing to answer questions from certain reporters, falsely charging the media with cover-ups and manipulation of news, and denying certain media outlets access to press briefings. Official designation of the media as “the opposition party” escalated when President Trump described The New York Times, CBS, CNN, ABC, and NBC News as “the enemy of the American people!”

An independent and free press is the Constitution’s safeguard against tyranny, the groups wrote. Its job is not to please the president but to report accurately on the actions of public officials so the public has the information to hold those in power accountable. Efforts to undermine the legitimacy or independence of the press, the statement reads, “betray the country’s most cherished values and undercut one of its most significant strengths.”

According to the statement:

The expressions of disdain for the press and its role in democracy by federal officials send a signal to state and local officials. In the aftermath of an election season that witnessed outright intimidation of journalists in communities around the country, there is a compelling need for highly placed federal officials to acknowledge the crucial role of a free press under our Constitution and the responsibility of government officials at all levels to respect it.

Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, said the best defense to the Trump Administration’s attack on journalism is a greater recognition of the public interest the press serves.

“The Fourth Estate serves the public by separating fact from fiction and making it easier to hold our leaders accountable,” Silverman said. “Discrediting the work of our press corps with hollow accusations of ‘fake news’ and petty grievances with coverage is an affront to our democracy. Journalists need our support and NEFAC is working every day to provide it to them.”

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Donations can be made here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, Lois Howe McClure, The Boston Globe and Boston University. Celebration Supporters include The Hartford Courant and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.