President Joe Biden praised the media in a statement on World Press Freedom Day on Monday, saying: “We celebrate the courage of truth-tellers who refuse to be intimidated, often at great personal risk, and we reaffirm the timeless and essential role journalism and a free media play in societies everywhere.”
Former president Donald Trump, for his part, sent out this missive on Monday morning: “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”
World Press Freedom Day, declared by the UN general assembly, is meant to raise awareness of the importance of a free press and to emphasise to governments around the world to uphold the right of freedom of expression.
The day marks the anniversary of the 1991 Windhoek declaration, a statement of principles for a free press put together by a group of African newspaper journalists in Namibia.
The declaration states that the “establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development”.
Mr Biden went on to say that “journalists uncover the truth, check the abuse of power, and demand transparency from those in power,” adding that reporters are “indispensable to the functioning of democracy”.
The president noted that during the pandemic, those employed in the media have “been on the front lines to keep the public informed, at significant risk to their own health”.
The comments of the current and former president were also notably different on World Press Freedom Day last year.
Mr Biden, then the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, sent out a statement on 3 May 2020, praising journalists for “upholding free and open democracies, both here at home and around the world”.
During a Fox News town hall later in the evening of 3 May 2020, Mr Trump said: “You see it: 94 or 95 per cent of the press is hostile. We have tremendous support, but the media might as well be in the Democrat Party.”
Mr Biden blasted Mr Trump at the time, issuing a statement accusing Mr Trump of launching "an all-out assault on the media".
“Donald Trump’s repeated efforts to demonize the media put us on such a dangerous path. While many presidents have been unhappy with their media coverage, only Donald Trump has attacked the independence of journalists and launched an all-out assault on the media," Mr Biden said one year ago.
He promised then that there would be “no bullying of the media from the press room podium or by tweet,” if he were to win the presidency.
Speaking about the press strategy of the new Biden administration, deputy communications director Kate Berner told Politico last month: “Our communications strategy is based on innovation in the digital space, flooding the zone in regional and coalitions press, and effectively using traditional national media.”
Mr Biden has been criticised for not speaking enough to reporters.
Ms Berner added: “He’s the president, he’s got a lot on his plate. We have people fanning out every single day across different media to amplify his message. We don’t let his schedule be a limiting factor for us. We use the Cabinet, they’re experts in their field. They also have audiences that they can uniquely speak to.”
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