It was not a good sign when President-Elect Donald Trump started his press conference by blaming “inaccurate news” for his refusal to continue meeting with journalists the way he used to during his campaign.
It is clear that Trump does not understand the role of power in relation with the media in a democracy. It is fundamental for journalists to be aware that theirs is not to let the authoritarian attitude of the incoming leader intimidate them.
That is what happened yesterday when the Republican put his Twitter aside for a moment to answer questions.
His attack on what he likes to call “the dishonest media” was based on the revelation of an unverified U.S. intelligence report handed to the millionaire stating that he took part on certain sexual practices in a Moscow hotel. BuzzFeed said that it was divulging the document to reveal what was being rumored within the intelligence circles and to submit it to the opinion of the U.S. public.
Whether we like it or not, the information presented in this context is valid because it reports on a real dossier created by these agencies and delivered by an intelligence source. No judgment on the content was made. Reporting on an alleged encounter between prostitutes and the President-Elect as real would have fallen under the category of “fake news,” but that is not the same as making up a story about a candidate leading a pedophile ring.
Still, it is ironic to see Trump’s indignation over the phenomenon of fake news when he is responsible for generating many of them. We only need to remember the news cycle he triggered when he said that millions of people committing voting fraud were the reason he did not win the popular vote.
In this case, it is understandable that Trump is angry at the agencies for leaking the information, but that is a battle to be commented on some other time.
The relationship between the press and power is contentions by definition. The mission of communicators is to question, ask and investigate in the name of the people’s right to know what their representatives are doing. A president is not a king, who is exempt of criticism, even if it is the unfair type.
Someone needs to remind Trump about the words of Thomas Jefferson regarding the “protection of public liberty” and that it is preferable to have media without a government than “a government without newspapers.”