The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is urging U.S. President Donald Trump to stop his attacks on the press, saying they “degrade” the essential role of the media in a democracy.

The OSCE’s media freedom representative, Harlem Desir, Monday said Trump’s comments about the media are “deeply problematic,” adding that such statements, especially those identifying the media as “the enemy of the people,” could make journalists more vulnerable to being targeted with violence.

“I urge the United States administration to refrain from delivering such attacks on the media,” said Desir in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Desir highlighted remarks Trump made last week in Phoenix, Arizona in which the president accused the media of being “truly dishonest,” “fake,” “crooked,” and of making up stories and deepening divisions within the country.

Desir said the comments are “particularly worrying given the United States’ long-standing position as one of the global leaders in defending free speech and press freedoms.” He said the media play a key role in democracies to hold governments accountable and to offer a platform for diverse voices.

The Vienna-based OSCE monitors security and election issues across the group’s 57 member states, including Europe, much of central Asia, Russia and the United States.

Trump has popularized use of the term “fake news” to criticize news media and reporters that he contends treat him unfairly.

A poll released last week by Quinnipiac University found that the majority of Americans agrees with Trump: 55 percent of voters said they disapprove of the way in which the news media report on Trump, compared to 40 percent who approve.

An even larger number of voters – 62 percent – said they disapprove of Trump’s negative comments about reporters and their employers. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they agree with Trump on such issues.

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