On Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists named Donald Trump the “top global press oppressor.” This group considers itself a defender of free speech for the journalists and reporters worldwide, and advocates against countries that abuse those who truthfully report the news. Apparently, they think the President is the most significant threat to the freedom of the press all around the world.
Trump Wins the Top “Press Oppressor” Designation
The committee released its list of top global oppressors on Monday. The timing is interesting, as it came shortly after Trump’s announcement that he would be holding the “fake news” awards.
In a statement, the organization contrasted President Trump to other world leaders when it comes to protecting freedom of the press. “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,” they wrote. “Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi [Jinping], [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, and [Abdel Fattah al-]Sisi.”
The group also slammed Trump for attacking journalists and news outlets on social media and during his speeches. “Since declaring his presidential candidacy in 2015, Trump has posted about 1,000 tweets critical of the press,” they wrote.
Now that we know who the committee believes to be the worst abuser of the press in the world, let’s take a look at how other leaders treat journalists.
Xi Jinping And China’s Press Abuses
Since its inception, the People’s Republic of China has been an extreme abuser of human rights. They have routinely targeted journalists for persecution – especially those who criticize the government.
According to Time Magazine, the Chinese regime passed a Criminal Law amendment in 2015, which “placed journalists at risk of criminal charges” for “fabricating false reports” when covering various types of events.
In China, journalists are prevented from publishing stories that relate to media censorship, civil society policies, economic policy, and most importantly, the Communist Party’s reputation. Last year, Wang Xiaolu, a reporter working with Caijing Magazine, was arrested for “suspected violations of colluding with others and fabricating and spreading fake information on securities and futures market.”
Unfortunately, Wang’s situation is not unique. A disturbing number of Chinese journalists have been persecuted by their government for daring to report the news the leaders didn’t want to be published. The Washington Post explained that the Chinese regime detained five citizen journalists during the 2016 G-20 summit. The journalists were arrested for reporting on the government crackdown.
Vladimir Putin Kills Journalists
Russian President Vladimir Putin is well-known for his animosity towards certain journalists. He has persecuted several members of the press for reporting stories that work against his agenda.
Under Putin, the Kremlin has imprisoned – and even killed – reporters who criticized the regime. The Washington Post published a piece discussing ten Russian critics of Putin who died under mysterious circumstances.
The Kremlin maintains near absolute control over the Russian news media. Reporters are only allowed to publish stories that are acceptable to Putin and his cronies. Any news stories that could reflect negatively on Putin could put journalists in extreme danger.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan Also Mistreats the Press
After an attempted coup in 2016, the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan imposed a significant government crackdown, which resulted in the arrest of hundreds of journalists. Since then, the government has led a campaign of terror against members of the press who report stories critical of the Turkish government.
Since taking office, Erdogan has worked hard to unravel the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern state of Turkey. Ataturk built a western-style democracy designed to provide its citizens with many of the rights we enjoy.
The coup attempt provided Erdogan with a perfect opportunity to tighten his grip on the country. He has used the crisis to lash out at journalists who publish stories that are not favorable to his regime. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey has now surpassed China as the world’s biggest jailer of journalists.
President Obama Wasn’t So Nice to Journalists Either
The establishment media regularly worshipped former President Barack Obama. Indeed, after his time in office was completed, they made the laughable claim that he ran a “scandal-free administration.” However, Obama was not as kind to the press as one might think. In 2013, the Obama administration conducted surveillance on members of the Associated Press. The Justice Department issued subpoenas for the phone records of 20 lines that were used by as many as 100 journalists.
But that’s not the worst of it. Obama’s Justice Department also targeted James Rosen, a reporter for Fox News. They designated Rosen as a probable “co-conspirator” in a case involving criminal spying. Why? Because he received leaked information from State Department security advisor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim regarding North Korea’s nuclear program. According to The Guardian, Kim gave Rosen a classified government report stating that the regime would be conducting a nuclear test in response to a U.N. resolution criticizing Pyongyang.
James Rosen did not engage in illegal activities. Obama’s Justice Department may not have approved of Rosen’s reporting, but he did not break the law. The government’s actions were nothing more than harassment.
President Donald Trump Is the Worst of the Worst
If you believe the Committee, President Trump apparently has a long history of oppressing journalists. In 2017, he consistently called American establishment news outlets “fake news” for their biased reporting. He also said mean things about them on Twitter.
Yes, that’s it.
This organization is singling out President Trump because of his rhetorical battle against the establishment media outlets, who continually publish news reports designed to damage the Trump administration.
Unfortunately for the Committee, naming Trump the world’s worst “press oppressor” will only weaken their credibility. It is equivalent to Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize before he ever took office. This type of virtue signaling will no doubt endear them to the left. They will garner much praise for this “brave” statement. Meanwhile, journalists who are genuine victims of persecution across the globe will continue to have their rights violated.
A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff's insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.