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Demonstrators in New York defend media amid attacks by Trump

Monday, February 27, 2017 - 06:41

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About 250 people demonstrated in support of the news media Sunday, amid stepped up attacks on the press by President Donald Trump.

[NEW YORK] About 250 people demonstrated in support of the news media Sunday, amid stepped up attacks on the press by President Donald Trump.

Although New York, a Democratic bastion, has been the scene of numerous demonstrations since Mr Trump's election, this was the first protest organised expressly to show support for the media.

The White House on Friday barred journalists from seven news organisations, including the New York Times and CNN, from attending an off-camera briefing in press secretary Sean Spicer's office.

That followed Mr Trump's frontal attack on the media earlier in the day, in a speech to an annual conservative convention in which he railed against "fake news" and called the media the "enemy of the people".

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Paradoxically, Mr Trump's attacks on the media during the presidential campaign and after his defeat of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have boosted a resurgence in public interest incisive news reporting.

The New York Times, for instance, has gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers even as the media's battle with Mr Trump has intensified.

Despite cold weather, protesters gathered outside the entrance to the headquarters of the New York Times in midtown Manhattan, some with bandages across their mouths and carrying placards citing the US Constitution guarantee of a free press.

The demonstration later shifted from the New York Times to the nearby offices of Fox News, then to those of NBC News.

"Anytime an authoritarian person or dictators take charge they always stifle the press. It's always the first thing they do. We are in the first steps of fascism," said Donna Marie Smith, a retired school teacher and longtime Times subscriber.

"We have to continue marching and the press has to keep covering it," she said, adding, "I do think we will overcome even though I don't know how long it will take."

"Democracy can't function without a free and independent media," said another protester, human rights lawyer Betsy Apple said.

"That is precisely what this administration is trying to do - to shut them down. But we won't let that happen."

Greg Hanlon, a journalist with People magazine, came to the demonstration with his wife and their four-month-old child.

"It's just important to stand up to make the point that this won't go unchecked, and that the people won't tolerate this," he said.

AFP

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