FILE - U.S. President Donald Trump
speaks to reporters in the press cabin
aboard Air Force One, Nov. 14, 2017.
WHITE HOUSE — The White House is
rejecting accusations President Donald Trump
and his administration are hampering freedom
of the press in the United States.
A media watchdog and advocacy group has
dropped the United States two places to 45th
in its annual press freedom rankings,
blaming Trump's repeated verbal attacks on
reporters, publications and TV news
"I think we're one of the most accessible
administrations that we've seen in decades,"
replied White House Press Secretary Sarah
Huckabee Sanders at Wednesday's briefing
just hours after the release of the
Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press
"I think by my mere presence of standing
up here and taking your questions unvetted
is a pretty good example of freedom of the
press and I think it's ridiculous to suggest
otherwise," Sanders said, responding to a
question from VOA.
The response did not satisfy the chief
White House correspondent for the Cable News
Network, which has been repeatedly singled
out by the president as a purveyor of "fake
Jim Acosta, who sits in the front row for
the White House press briefings, asked
Sanders whether she was trying to say, in
response to VOA's question, whether the
Trump administration was a champion of the
FILE - CNN reporter Jim Acosta asks a
question during a news conference held by
U.S. President Donald Trump at the White
House in Washington, Feb. 16, 2017.
"We support a free press, but we also
support a fair press," Sanders replied. "And
I think that those things should go hand in
hand and there's a certain responsibility by
the press to report accurate information."
The press secretary then said she
frequently finds herself "taking your
questions in a tone that's completely
unnecessary, unneeded and frankly doesn't
help further the conversation or help the
American people get any more information in
a better way, which is your job and my job."
Sanders then moved on to another reporter
as Acosta attempted to continue his line of
questioning, but not before Acosta
interjected with a comment of his own that
"the president's tone toward the press
obviously is not helpful at times, and I
think that's plain to see."
Such testy televised exchanges between
prominent American journalists and the White
House press secretary — and sometimes the
president himself — have further polarized
Americans about both the conduct of the
administration and the media since Trump's
surprise election victory in 2016, which
followed an unconventional campaign filled
with the candidate's criticism of the press.
Reporters Without Borders, for the second
year in a row, dropped the United States two
places in its survey of press freedom in 180
countries, citing Trump's labeling of the
press as an "enemy of the American people,"
his routine use of the "fake news" term, and
the calling for media outlets' broadcasting
licenses to be revoked.
In a February 2017 memo, the
then-director of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, James Comey, wrote that Trump
had suggested reporters might need to be
jailed to send a message about classified
information being leaked to the media.
Sanders on Wednesday called it
"ridiculous" that the United States fell in
the index. In response, Margaux Ewan, the
organization's North American director,
cited "an increase in arrests, violent
attacks, and online harassment at the local
level," pointing out there were 34
documented arrests of journalists in the
country last year.
"It's hard to believe how anyone could
look at those numbers and find a decline in
press freedom in this country ridiculous,'"
Ewan told VOA.
The organization in its annual report
blames Trump for routinely singling out news
organizations and journalists for their
coverage of him, specifically noting that
the president retweeted several violent
memes targeting CNN.
According to Reporters Without Borders,
the decline in press freedom in the United
States "is not simply bad news for
journalists working inside the country; the
downward trend has drastic consequences at
the international level," noting that the
term "fake news" has become "a trademark
excuse for media repression, in both
democratic and authoritarian regimes."
In the RSF 2018 index, Norway is
considered the top nation for press freedom
while North Korea ranks last.