Sunday, December 30, 2018

UN Special Rapporteur Calls Out Government Disinformation Coming from the US President

In a wide-ranging interview published in the Digital Rights Monitor, David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion, identified Government disinformation as a special challenge. No surprise, Kaye -- an American national -- named names.  According to Kaye, "[G]enerally, governments are real offenders when it comes to disinformation. You know, governments are putting out false information. I mean, in my own country, the United States, the worst perpetrator of false information is the President of the United States. So one thing is how do we deal with government 'fake news' — if you want to call it that, but propaganda is a better phrase for it." 

Continuing, Kaye urged journalists to not let government disinformation slip by under the radar, while also acknowledging the threats that journalists can face for doing their jobs in such an environment.  Said Kaye, "So on that front, I think journalists need to be covering it. And again that’s hard for people in societies where you face all sorts of threats. So that’s something: You need to do it; it’s time consuming; it takes away from other reporting you might do, and when you do it you can come under pressure from the government or other actors. So that’s one thing is that journalists can be doing some of this." 

In August 2018, UN Special Rapporteur Kaye and Edison Lanza of the Inter-American  Commission on Human Rights issued a joint statement pointedly calling on President Trump to curtail his own his administration's attacks on freedom of the press.

For a sobering round-up of attacks on journalists and press freedoms in 2018 -- including the fatal attack in the newsroom at the Capitol Gazette -- see the Year in Press Freedom in the Columbia Journalism Review.   The report notes that journalists face many challenges unrelated to Trump, but at the same time, chronicles the uptick in federal leak investigations, subpoenas, and arrests of journalists while doing their jobs.

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