On Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international non-profit dedicated to protecting reporters around the globe, announced their top “press oppressor.” It wasn’t Kim Jung Un (who allegedly kills dissenters), or Ayatollah Khamenei (who bans or jails press members who criticize him), or Vladimir Putin (who allegedly murders members of the press who criticize him). It was Donald Trump, who says mean stuff to reporters, then does nothing about it.
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 [Jinping], [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, and [Abdel Fattah al-]Sisi.”
So, wouldn’t that make Xi, Erdogan, and Sisi more of a threat to press freedoms than Trump? Apparently not. Erdogan took the title for “Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press”; Xi was handed the award for “Tightest Grip on Media.” But Trump hasn’t sufficiently criticized them, so he’s the biggest oppressor. Which is somewhat like saying that Harvey Weinstein isn’t the greatest alleged rapist in Hollywood, Meryl Streep is for failing to say anything about it.
This sort of virtue signaling is designed to lead to donations for CPJ, but it’s a grave injustice to the journalists all over the world who actually risk death to report. In the United States, ripping Trump carries the risk of fame and fortune for left-wing journalists — Jim Acosta, one of Trump’s most frequent critics, was recently punished for his dissent with the chief White House correspondent’s role. He will be forced to cover the White House even more closely, with even less career risk. The horror!