When Donald Trump says “fake news”, autocrats jail journalists

So says Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times. Perhaps the most chilling portion of the story Sulzberger tells is about a call the Times received from “a U.S. government official” saying that the Trump administration knew journalist Declan Walsh was about to be arrested by the Egyptian government and planned to do nothing about it. An appeal to Ireland, Walsh’s country of birth, resulted in a swift response that got him safely out of the country.

Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to be Irish when the Trump administration tacitly, or expressly, signs off on our imprisonment and torture. As Sulzberger writes,

in attacking American media, President Trump has done more than undermine his own citizens’ faith in the news organizations attempting to hold him accountable. He has effectively given foreign leaders permission to do the same with their countries’ journalists, and even given them the vocabulary with which to do it.

They’ve eagerly embraced the approach. My colleagues and I recently researched the spread of the phrase “fake news,” and what we found is deeply alarming: In the past few years, more than 50 prime ministers, presidents and other government leaders across five continents have used the term “fake news” to justify varying levels of anti-press activity.

But the Walsh case begs another question: what exactly did the Trump administration know about the murder of The Washington Post‘s Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 — and when did they know it? After – or before? Congress needs to re-open this investigation.


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