The administration has waged an aggressive legal campaign against journalists. Leak investigations, which were already on the rise under President Obama, have surged. Government regulatory powers have been misused to retaliate against news organizations, such as the attempt to block AT&T from acquiring CNN’s parent company, Time Warner. Most recently, the precedent-shattering use of the Espionage Act against Julian Assange for publishing classified information has raised fears that the Justice Department seeks not merely to punish illegal hacking but effectively to criminalize standard reporting practices.
Meanwhile, the president’s rhetorical attacks continue to foster a climate in which trust in journalists is eroding and violence against them is growing. More than a quarter of Americans—and a plurality of Republicans—now agree that “the news media is the enemy of the American people” and “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” A world-wide surge of attacks has made this the most dangerous year for journalists on record. This is particularly true in parts of the world where pursuing the truth already carries great risks, as news reporters and editors experience rising levels of censorship, harassment, imprisonment and murder.