SAG-AFTRA: Press Is Not the Enemy

SAG-AFTRA, which represents broadcast journalists as well as actors and entertainers, says it will defend the rights of journalists to cover the U.S. government.

That came in a President's Day statement clearly aimed at the current President's intimidation of the media.

“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," the group said in a statement Feb. 20. It did not mention the President by name, but it did not have to. That statement followed one by President Donald Trump last week that the mainstream media were the enemies 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."

Candidate Donald Trump threatened to tighten libel laws or sue outlets whose coverage he criticized. As President he has called those outlets "fake news," "failing," "disgraceful" and now "enemies" and circulated a "mainstream media accountability" survey to supporters last week asking them whether the Republican party should put more resources into combating those media outlets.

“SAG-AFTRA believes first and foremost that citizens in a democracy need the truth," the union statement continued. "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.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.