It was revealed in the Times that numerous journalists were prohibited from entering the most recent press briefing held yesterday. Not all reporters, however, were restricted; publications with conservative leanings were allowed in, as well as some closer to center, while left-leaning publications were excluded. In an act of protest, reporters from the AP and Time magazine elected not to attend the briefing.
This action stands out from the actions of predecessors, who have never gone so far as to select certain news organizations – particularly those who offer similar views – that are given access to information intended to be delivered to the public.
While this decision represents a stray from the precedent, it is very reflective of the general attitudes of the new presidential administration and the lack of trust it promotes towards the media. Accusations made by the president regarding “fake news” in various publications have established that the administration views the press as a target of opposition.
The consequences of such cynical perceptions towards the media may prove to be disastrous.
By excluding reporters from press briefings, the new government is tearing away at the transparency between public and public officials that supposedly exists in a democracy. The inner-workings of bureaucratic functions can better be kept secret without the influence of the press, allowing for more authoritative control. The confirmation bias created when only certain publications are privy to such operations further allows the administration to gain control, as reporters will have a greater incentive to produce stories which align with the president’s objectives and views.
The intimidation created through these actions will most likely cause a severe change in strategy regarding how the press operates and how stories are perceived. While some publications will remain steadfast in their attempt to cover what they see fit, regardless of executive threats and accusations, some will inevitably succumb to the pressures and begin censoring their content.
Censorship of the press is not only the antithesis of the values upheld by the First Amendment, but also serves as a hallmark of totalitarian regimes.
The views promoted by the actions of the new administration in the first month alone have prompted a new reason for concern and have granted validation for many of the fears expressed during the campaign. While past administrations can by no means be considered entirely transparent, the recent threats that have been made towards the protection of civil liberties pose a serious concern for all citizens along the political spectrum.