SAG-AFTRA Supports ‘Unencumbered Press’ After Trump’s License Revocation Threat

SAG-AFTRA has issued a strong statement in support of a “free and unencumbered press” nine days after President Donald Trump threatened to strip networks of their broadcast licenses.

“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. 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.”

SAG-AFTRA did not mention Trump by name. He threatened on Oct. 11 to challenge the broadcast licenses of “NBC and the Networks” after NBC reported that Trump asked about a tenfold increase in U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump called the report “pure fiction, made up to demean” and added, “NBC = CNN.”

He also tweeted that day, “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said on Oct. 17 that the agency lacked authority to revoke the license of a broadcast station based on the content of a newscast, in his first comments on the topic since President Donald Trump’s tweets.

SAG-AFTRA said Friday that it was “re-emphasizing” its Feb. 20 statement about the free press “in light of recent threats to ‘challenge’ the licenses of broadcast news outlets.”

The union, which has 160,000 members, also elaborated in its statement on the role of the press.

“SAG-AFTRA believes first and foremost that citizens in a democracy need the truth. 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.”

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