Journalists at major outlets in America have grown used to their work being labeled “fake news” by the American president, but a handful of recent stories show that Trump’s press bashing is catching on around the world. Last week, it was a Libyan broadcaster challenging CNN’s harrowing report about slave markets in the country. Over the weekend, The New York Times quoted a government official from Myanmar dismissing the very existence of the nation’s oppressed Rohingya minority. “There is no such thing as Rohingya,” the official said. “It is fake news.”
After returning from his November trip to Asia, Trump specifically criticized CNN International, tweeting, “CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!” Appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik said that the undermining of a respected and vital international news source “is another way that Trump recklessly hurts us in the world.”
Despite troubling survey results showing a lack of trust in the media among Americans, the US possesses institutions and constitutional protections that ensure a functioning free press. Trump can attack the reporting of CNN or The New York Times, and some of his die-hard supporters will surely believe him, but good journalism still gets results. The fear among some media watchers was that Trump’s domestic attacks on journalists would free up authoritarian leaders in countries where the US has long been a vocal (if imperfect) advocate for the free press. The examples of Libya and Myanmar show that those fears were well-founded.
So while the focus of Trump’s attacks is often domestic reporting about his own political fortunes, we shouldn’t lose sight of the damage his words do to journalists in far more dangerous environments. Writing in this week’s New Yorker, Steve Coll argues that “when the leader of a nation previously devoted to the promulgation of press freedom worldwide seeks so colorfully to delegitimize journalism, he inevitably gives cover to foreign despots who threaten reporters in order to protect their own power.”
Below, more on the impact of Trump’s press attacks around the world.
- “A dangerous message”: USA Today’s Gregory Korte looks at how the press-bashing attacks from the American president have repercussions around the globe.
- From CNN attack to slavery denial: For GQ, Jay Willis explores how Trump’s “fake news” attacks are “providing a defense for people who have been exposed for promoting slave labor.”
- Flashback: Writing for CJR in October, 2016, Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, warned about Trump’s impact on the global free press. “The Trump campaign has eroded US standing around the world, particularly when it comes to such issues as human rights and press freedom,” he wrote.
Other notable stories
- “I don’t think ever in my career have I felt more rage and disappointment and frustration that I felt through this weekend and through the last half of Friday,” ABC News president James Goldston told staff during Monday morning’s editorial call. CNN obtained an audio recording of the meeting, in which Goldston expressed his anger over Brian Ross’s erroneous reporting.
- The Wrap’s Jon Levine reports that MSNBC will not renew contributor Sam Seder’s contract after far-right media personality Mike Cernovich dug up an old tweet of Seder’s about Roman Polanski. I’d echo those who have argued the move by MSNBC was an example of a corporation failing to understand the way smear campaigns work online.
- Axios reports that White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley refused to take on-the-record questions from the press pool traveling with President Trump yesterday.
- CJR’s Mathew Ingram explains Civil, a journalism startup that is trying to take a “quantum leap” beyond the efforts of other platforms by inventing its own currency.
- BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos explains how right-wing trolls engaged in a campaign to get her suspended from Twitter.