Has Trump, tech and TV throttled press freedom?

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Sonny Swe, CEO of Frontier Myanmar, told a Reuters Next panel that press freedom had deteriorated sharply, and Maria Ressa, who heads a Philippine news website known for its scrutiny of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ressa, who has faced criminal prosecutions for her reporting, likened the arrival of the major tech platforms to an atom bomb going off in the media ecosystem, with readers manipulated by algorithms towards ever more incendiary news.

In Myanmar, Swe said, the government used Facebook to release news, particularly during the pandemic, which prevented journalists from scrutinising data.

Amanpour, the chief international anchor on CNN, said broadcasters and newspapers also had to look at the role they had played after they reported comments and news based on who had said them, regardless of whether they were true.

“We should have dropped the mic a long time ago,” she told the panel on press freedom around the world, adding that citizens also have to start taking much more responsibility for what they consume.

Rights groups have warned that press freedom is in peril in many parts of the world, with journalists harassed by police, the judiciary, politicians and protesters on the streets.

In 2020, the United Nations accused Trump’s White House of mounting an “onslaught” against the media which, it said, had led to a very negative “Trump effect” on press freedom elsewhere.

Reacting to the report, the White House said at the time that it expected all news to be “fair and accurate”, adding that Trump was “not going to back down from calling out lies”.