Journalists need greater protection. Trump is not about to give it to them.
According to the independent, not-for-profit Committee to Protect Journalists, 1,323 journalists were killed worldwide between 1992 and 2018 for doing their job. The number of journalists and media staff killed in 2018 has reached 73. On 9 October 2018 The Washington Post ran a story titled “2018 has been a brutal year for journalists, and it keeps getting worse”. It noted:
“In addition, at least 155 journalists around the world are imprisoned, along with 142 citizen journalists and 19 media assistants. Turkey is one major culprit, imprisoning more than 250 reporters for their work and often accusing them of things like ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organization’. And two Reuters photographers continue to languish in prison in Myanmar, where they’ve been charged under the obscure Official Secrets Act with ‘illegally acquir[ing] information’. The pair reported extensively on last year’s military campaign of violence and expulsion against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.”
This is the bigger picture behind President Donald Trump’s scurrilous attacks on independent journalism and the media. To recollect, in “Trump’s attacks on media raise threat of violence against reporters” (The Guardian, 2 August 2018):
“Donald Trump’s attacks on the media have been condemned by experts at the United Nations, who warned that the US president’s vitriolic rhetoric could result in violence against journalists. In a joint statement, two experts on freedom of expression – David Kaye, who was appointed by the UN human rights council, and Edison Lanza, who holds the corresponding position at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said: ‘These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law.’ … ‘We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.’”
BBC News (16 August 2018) reported “Trump’s ‘dirty war’ on media draws editorials in 300 US outlets” stating that “More than 300 news outlets have launched a campaign to counter US President Donald Trump’s attacks and promote a free press. It pointed to the president’s “dirty war” against the media, using the hashtag #EnemyOfNone, and his constant derision of media reports as “fake news” and journalists as ‘enemies of the people”.
At the weekend, in an interview with CBS broadcast on 60 Minutes, referring to the disappearance and probable murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump’s words had hypocrisy written all over them. He said he does not want to “hurt jobs” by sanctioning Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s disappearance, but nevertheless promised “severe punishment” if the Saudi regime is shown to be involved in the journalist’s death. Shedding crocodile tears, Trump said the fact that Khashoggi was a reporter made the case “really terrible and disgusting”.
No one could interpret Trump’s anti-media stance as condoning the murder of journalists. But his total disdain for the profession, his manipulation of the media, and his repeated accusations that journalists are traitors have undoubtedly been noted in countries whose despotic leaders and their security services are deaf to human rights. They include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and others that stand to gain politically and economically from a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship with the USA. These are the tactics of a man who is hollow, evasive, and morally bankrupt.