Donald Trump, who last week tried to ban a book that criticized his presidency, is busy preparing for his next assaults on the practitioners of the First Amendment that he so casually disregards. The president, who seems to be determined to make Richard Nixon look like a champion of press freedom, is threatening again to “take a strong look at our country’s libel laws” and recently announcing that: “The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th…”
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Trump’s “awards” represent the ultimate fake news—amplified whimpering from a son of privilege who has been pampered for so long that he is offended by even the hint of truth. His “awards” are an absurdity that extends from the broader absurdity of his presidency.
The awards that matter are the ones that come from defenders of the right to speak truth to power, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists. That group is pushing back against Trump’s ranting and raving by making note of “world leaders who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media”—including Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and Donald Trump.
On the list of authoritarians who “have gone above and beyond to silence critical voices and weaken democracy,” the president of the United States takes top honors for “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom.”
The committee explains that
The United States, with its First Amendment protection for a free press, has long stood as a beacon for independent media around the world. While previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad. Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi, Erdoğan, and Sisi. Authorities in China, Syria, and Russia have adopted Trump’s “fake news” epithet, and Erdoğan has applauded at least one of his verbal attacks on journalists. Under Trump’s administration, the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists’ sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression. As Trump and other Western powers fail to pressure the world’s most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom, the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high.
Trump does not merely refuse to uphold the oath he swore to defend the whole of a Constitution that specifically guarantees freedom of the press. As the Committee to Protect Journalists explains, the president makes it harder for people around the world who embrace and seek to extend the freedom of inquiry and dissent that is the great promise of the American experiment.
Trump has earned his “award” from the committee—and, with it, recognition as a threat to honest debate and robust democracy at home and abroad.