This commentary argues that U.S. President Donald Trump is providing cover to exactly the wrong types of governments to crack down on news outlets in their countries.
From the Guardian, by Isaac Stone Fish (“Despots are embracing Donald Trump’s ‘war on the media’ with open arms“):
In mid-February, Venezuela booted CNN En Espanol from the airwaves, claiming, in a fancier version of Trump’s language, that CNN’s reports “defame and distort the truth.” After the White House in late February barred several news outlets, including the New York Times and Politico, from attending a routine briefing, a government spokesman in Cambodia cited that as an inspiration – and threatened to expel news outlets that don’t follow Phnom Penh’s orders.
Also in late February, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website launched a page featuring foreign media reporting that it claims contains false information. The Ministry decorated each article – which come from outlets including The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, and the tiny Santa Monica Observer, among others – with the word ‘Fake.’ (“Stop spreading lies and false news,” a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson told a CNN reporter in early March.)
These attacks serve two main purposes. They intimidate the media, and strive to ingratiate the country’s government with Trump.
“To get on the United States’ good side, leaders would use the phrase ‘war on terror,’” said Keith Richburg, a longtime Washington Post foreign correspondent who’s now the director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at Hong Kong University. “Now we may see every dictator and autocrat” using the same anti-media language Trump uses, to harass foreign and domestic journalists. “Great opportunity for them to kick out American reporters, and deny them visas,” Richburg said. …
In the weeks following 9/11, Bush made sure to emphasize his respect for Islam, and for Muslims. “Islam is peace,” he said in a speech six days after the attacks. “These terrorists don’t represent peace.” Today, despite potentially huge budget cuts, the State Department will almost certainly continue to support American journalists abroad, and to advocate for press freedom globally. But will Trump stand up for the journalists, operating internationally, who come from outlets critical of him and his White House? That seems unlikely.