CNN vs Trump

Updated July 30, 2018

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DONALD Trump’s relationship with the media is far from smooth.

The US president, who rarely shies away from making sweeping statements and stoking controversy, often lambasts the media for airing ‘fake news’, especially if the news in question is critical of him. CNN often tops the list of media organisations Mr Trump loathes, and recently a reporter for the network was banned from covering a White House event. Apparently, the extreme step was taken as the reporter asked “inappropriate” questions. Surely the US president and his media managers know that it is the press’s job to ask tricky questions of those in power. However, what is heartening is that nearly all major media outlets in the US — including right-wing broadcaster Fox News, which is said to have Mr Trump’s stamp of approval — rallied around CNN and its journalist.

News organisations have a right to take a political line, and as long as coverage does not scandalise or libel a subject, criticism must be accepted by public figures. That is why the US president’s move has raised hackles as such behaviour is unacceptable in a state with a free media. The American media’s solidarity over Mr Trump’s banning of the reporter must be appreciated, and we in Pakistan can also learn from this episode. In Pakistan, politicians and others in the nation’s power corridors have mixed feelings towards various media organisations; the latter often take differing lines where support or criticism of political parties is concerned. However, where protection of the right to freely publish or broadcast the facts is concerned, there needs to be unity amongst the Pakistani media’s ranks. This means that if any channel’s transmission is blocked, or any newspaper’s distribution is disrupted, all media organisations must speak with one voice to condemn such tactics. Where freedom of the media is concerned, there simply cannot be a compromise in a democratic society.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2018