By: Emery Jochnau
A recent Super Bowl advertisement produced by The Washington Post generated heated debates over the concept of freedom of speech in the United States. The Washington Post has long been a victim in President Trump’s attacks on media outlets which he claims publish “fake news,” a slogan which has begun to stigmatize words like “journalism” and “journalist.” The advertisement sparked the conversation of where the United States now stands in terms of press freedoms. Since the election of Donald Trump, the American people’s faith in journalism has dwindled. Many no longer believe that what they are reading is the truth. Since Trump came into office in 2016, the United States standing in the World Freedom Press Index has dropped from 41 to 45, with Reporters without Borders arguing that Trump’s presidency has “fostered further decline in journalists right to report.” America’s inability to promote its own democratic principles domestically could harm U.S. policy abroad.
The promotion of democratic ideals has long been at the forefront of the United States’ foreign policy. In 2006, the former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, established the Global Internet Freedom Task Force. The strategy was put in action “to maximize freedom of expression and the free flow of information and ideas.” The United States promoted this strategy by maintaining that freedom of expression is a universal right. In the past, U.S. foreign policy was dedicated to promoting freedom of expression and freedom of the press and working in conjunction with other governments, multilateral institutions, NGO’s, and individuals around the world to do so.
Indeed, there have been many instances in the past in which the United States has intervened on behalf of press freedoms in other countries. An example of this is Pakistan, where there were multiple attacks on the media and journalists leading to either the abductions or deaths of several individuals. As a result of these attacks, the Pakistani government instituted a media code of conduct that restricted independent media. In the face of political and economic pressures from the United States, however, the new regime soon pledged to lift these restrictions. But what would happen if these pressures cease to exist under Trump?
It is important that the American public and the international community alike stay vigilant to monitor how the dismissal of domestic journalists by President Trump begins to influence U.S. foreign policy on this subject in the coming years. There is a lot of urgency in the eyes of the Americans for the United States to restore its own ability and desire to uphold press freedoms domestically in order to more successfully promote press freedoms abroad.