Sunday, June 26, 2016

Trump’s Revoking of Washington Post’s Press Credentials is Not a Violation of Press Freedom

Donald Trump raised some hackles when he revoked the press credentials of the Washington Post for criticizing him. As I understand it, this revocation bans Washington Post reporters from covering Trump’s campaign from within the campaign. Critics immediately attacked Trump for violating freedom of the press.

Yahoo News reported:

Reporters Without Borders said that Trump’s decision was “a serious violation of freedom of the press.”

The organizations’s director in the United States, Delphine Halgand, said that they “strongly and unequivocally condemns this latest act of hostility toward the press as a serious violation of press freedom. How, in the country of the First Amendment, can the Republican party’s nominee for President justify revoking press credentials for one of the country’s major newspapers?” (sic)

Fox News reported:

In a statement, Post editor Martin Baron said, "Donald Trump's decision to revoke The Washington Post's press credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press. When coverage doesn't correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished. The Post will continue to cover Donald Trump as it has all along - honorably, honestly, accurately, energetically, and unflinchingly. We're proud of our coverage, and we're going to keep at it."

Both Baron and Reporters Without Borders are spewing nonsense. Trump is neither violating press freedom, the First Amendment, or repudiating the role of a free and independent press.

The First Amendment protects the press from governmental—i.e., legal; i.e., forcible—abridgement of that right to press freedom. Freedom of the press does not mean a private citizen must deal with a member of the press against his will. Candidate Trump, as a private citizen, can do what he did. A President Trump, in his capacity as a government official, cannot. Note that the Post itself acknowledged that it can and “will continue to cover Donald Trump as it has all along.” Trump cannot stop them. He can only refuse to deal with them. That is his right, which does not violate the rights of the Washington Post.

This post does not excuse Trump of his hostility toward free speech. But in this instance, Trump is within his rights under the First Amendment.

Related Reading:

Trump vs. Clinton Is Terrible News for Fans of Free Speech and the First Amendment—Damon Root for

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