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About AHCJ: General News

More than 80 groups call president’s attacks on the media 'a threat to democracy' Date: 03/01/17

For immediate release
March 2, 2017

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Association of Health Care Journalists, along with more than 80 other organizations committed to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the press, is alarmed by efforts by the Trump administration to demonize the media and undermine its ability to inform the public about official actions and policies. In a joint statement released today, the groups stress that the administration’s attacks on the press pose a threat to American democracy.

The statement cites numerous attempts by the administration to penalize and intimidate the press for coverage the president dislikes, 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!”

The statement emphasizes that an independent and free press is the Constitution’s safeguard against tyranny. 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 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.”

“The press plays an essential role in democracy, by serving as an independent watchdog on government conduct and as the main source of information for the public,” said Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. “The constitutional right to freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances cannot be exercised in a meaningful way without access to information about what the government does in our name.”

“We are especially concerned during this great period of confusion over the future of health care,” said AHCJ President Karl Stark. “It is crucial that reporters get complete and speedy communications with government officials and not face threats of intimidation. We’ve seen some improvements working directly with government agencies in the past few years and we’d hate to see that change in the future.”

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With about 1,500 members across the United States and around the globe, its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. The association and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism provide training, resources and a professional home for journalists. Offices are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.

READ THE STATEMENT