It’s World Press Freedom Day, But the Media Needs to Do More to Win Back Americans’ Trust

Today, May 3, marks World Press Freedom Day, a day set aside by the UN General Assembly to acknowledge the state of press freedom and celebrate its fundamental principles throughout the world. The theme of 2018’s celebration is “Keeping Power in Check,” thus underscoring the role of the fourth estate in holding the powerful accountable.

Furthermore, the day also honors the numerous journalists who have died in the line of duty. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 46 journalists were killed last year and more than half that number have been murdered so far in 2018. Just three days ago, nine journalists were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan; one of them was 29-year-old Ahmad Shah with the BBC Afghan Service.

Journalists in the U.S. have taken to social media to commemorate the lives of lost colleagues and champion press freedom. The New York Times took out a full-page ad in its paper urging the public to read more news outlets (besides the Times).

Despite the American media’s latest efforts to boost readership, the relationship between the press and American public remains a fraught one, especially in the wake of the 2016 U.S. elections.

A May 2017 Harvard CAPS-Harris poll revealed that a majority of American voters across the ideological spectrum say the mainstream press is full of fake news. 65% of voters expressed that sentiment, including 80% of Republicans, 60% of independents and 53% of Democrats. The poll also showed the public’s waning trust in the media as 84% of voters say it is hard to know what news to believe online.

As the media struggles to assert its First Amendment rights under an administration that has often branded it as “fake news” or an “enemy of the American people,” it will have to do more to restore faith in its institutions and win over the American public.