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US Elections: Four More Years of…?

June 25, 2024 | by: point

The last panel of day one of the Point Conference was dedicated to the upcoming US presidential elections. How the Trump presidency impacted media freedom in the US was one of the topics of this panel, moderated by Milica Kovačević, program Director of the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT).

The panel discussion featured Katie Sanders, the editor-in-chief of PolitiFact, and Peter Jones, communications officer for Reporters Without Borders. They provided in-depth insights into press freedom, misinformation, and the current state of media and political affairs in the United States. 

Peter Jones highlighted the decline in press freedom in the United States. He noted a drop in the U.S.’s ranking to 55th in the world, the lowest since 2013. This decline is attributed to economic challenges, media closures, and the lingering effects of the Trump administration’s position toward the media. Jones said that these issues didn’t go away when Trump left, pointing out that “there is an increasing shift or more laws calling for journalist access to public spaces to be limited, preventing local investigations and holding people in authority to account at the local level.”

He discussed a significant reduction in local news outlets, which has led to decreased information availability at the local level. 

Jones introduced a new initiative, a State Press Freedom Index, to assess and compare press freedom across different U.S. states. 

Katie Sanders, editor-in-chief of PolitiFact, shared her experiences in debunking misinformation during election cycles. She pointed out the relentless nature of disinformation campaigns, especially those targeting President Biden. Sanders mentioned, “We have documented in just the last three weeks alone, four different examples of very successful misinformation campaigns.”

Sanders explained the challenges in combating deceptively edited videos and the difficulty in fact-checking ambiguous claims. She noted the strategic use of misleading content to influence public perception, particularly in swing states. Addressing the high polarization in U.S. politics, Sanders remarked that there are so-called double haters who don’t like either candidate and will have to make a choice.

The panel discussion provided valuable insights into the current state of press freedom, the pervasive impact of misinformation, and the challenges facing democracy in the U.S. The speakers highlighted the critical need for vigilant fact-checking and the importance of maintaining a free and robust press to support informed electoral choices and uphold democratic principles.

Author: Biljana Livančić-Milić