Despots are embracing Donald Trump’s ‘war on the media’ with open arms

Countries like Venezuela, Russia and China are using Washington’s aggressive stance on journalists to justify their own erosion of the free press

‘Trump’s war on the media emboldens Beijing, Moscow and others’

George W Bush’s ‘war on terror’ gave cover to despots around the world – from China, to Turkey and Russia – for violent crackdowns of minority groups seeking greater freedoms. Once these groups were re-cast as ‘terrorists’, it was hard for the West to criticize the states that used heavy-handed tactics against them. Now, Washington DC has invented another ‘war’ that has regimes across the world delighted: the war on the media.

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.

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Source By https://www.theguardian.com

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