February 20, 2017 | 02:58PM PT
SAG-AFTRA has issued a strong statement in support of a “free and unencumbered press,” three days after President Donald Trump attacked journalists from the New York Times, ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC as “the enemy of the American people.”
“As a union whose membership includes broadcast and online journalists, SAG-AFTRA champions the rights of a free press, whose primary role is to provide citizens with the information they need to effectively govern a democracy,” the union said.
“These rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the press shall be free from government interference in the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions. SAG-AFTRA, journalists and non-journalists alike, supports a free and unencumbered press and stands with any journalist who might find his or her ability to report on our government challenged or compromised.”
SAG-AFTRA did not mention Trump by name. He has been accusing mainstream outlets such as CNN of “fake news.”
Trump’s comment evoked rebukes from journalists and public figures using the hashtag “#nottheenemy” to defend the role of a free press in the U.S. The union’s statement also elaborated on the role of the press.
“SAG-AFTRA believes first and foremost that citizens in a democracy need the truth. Furthermore, SAG-AFTRA believes that journalists have an obligation to monitor and question those in power, pointing out wrongdoing when they find it, noting when facts asserted are not supported by evidence, and reporting inconsistencies in the positions of public figures.”
“As working professionals, members of the news media have an obligation to verify the accuracy of what they report, with loyalty only to their readers, listeners and viewers and not to any political party, affiliation, or ideology. As a proud labor union representing more than 160,000 broadcasters, actors and entertainers SAG-AFTRA stands with all of its members in ensuring that the basic rights of a free and independent press continue to be upheld.”