GENEVA - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, warns freedom of the press in the United States is under attack from President Donald Trump, with potential national and global consequences.
Zeid says words have consequences, actions have consequences and both must be chosen wisely. He says President Trump's characterization of respected newspapers and media outlet as liars and crooks is damaging.
He says the reference to journalists as dishonest and bad people and purveyors of fake news is potentially dangerous.
"Is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists? And, let us assume that a journalist is harmed from one of these organizations, does the president then not bear responsibility for this, for having fanned this?" he asked.
Cornerstone of democracy
Zeid says the demonization of the press is poisonous because it has consequences elsewhere. He says the words of the U.S. president reverberate around the world.
"We see now in Cambodia for example, the licenses of media, radio programs are being lifted off the air. And, the president of the United States — his remarks are being cited," he said. "Is this going to expand in this way?"
Zeid notes freedom of the press is a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution, adding he is amazed that instead of defending this right, press freedom is now under attack from the president of the United States.
He calls this a stunning turnaround and ultimately a dangerous one, leading to incitement and fear, self-censorship and banning and then violence.
Trump has regularly criticized major news media outlets like CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Earlier in August, he took aim at news organizations for their coverage of a violent rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. He called the journalists "truly dishonest people." Trump has lashed out at the media in speeches and on Twitter.