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UN Rights Chief Assails Trump Over Press Attacks, Racial Comments

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein (file photo)

The United Nations human rights chief says U.S. President Donald Trump’s "dangerous" attacks on the news media are undermining freedom of the press and could incite violence against journalists.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on August 30 also expressed concerns about the U.S. president’s remarks about women, Mexicans, Muslims, and other groups.

The White House did not immediately respond to the comments.

"It's really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only sort of a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution, but very much something that the United States defended over the years, is now itself under attack from the president," Zeid told a news conference in Geneva.

"It's sort of a stunning turnaround. And, ultimately, the sequence is a dangerous one," he said.

“Is this is not an incitement for others to attack journalists?" he added in specific reference to Trump's verbal assaults on The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN.

Zeid, the first Muslim and Arab to hold the top UN rights position, also hit out at what he called "irresponsible" comments about some minority groups, including Mexicans and Muslims.

"The president prides himself as a taboo breaker, indeed his supporters see him as such. But at the time I expressed my feeling that this was grossly irresponsible, because it has consequences, it emboldens those who may think similarly to sharpen their assaults on these communities," he said.

Commenting on the August 12 events in Charlottesville -- where a woman was killed when a car was driven into a crowd of counterprotesters at a far-right and neo-Nazi rally -- Zeid said swastikas, anti-Semitic slurs, and racist references to African-Americans had "no place in the United States or beyond."

Zeid, who was born in Amman, was the former Jordanian ambassador to the United States and to the UN and helped establish the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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