President Trump has “empower[ed]” rogue regimes around the world to imprison journalists on charges of “fake news,” by complaining about fake news from the White House, according to Sen. John McCain.
“[The president] must understand his harmful rhetoric only empowers repressive regimes to jail reporters & silence the truth,” the Arizona Republican tweeted.
.@pressfreedom's annual report shows record # of journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2017, including 21 on "fake news" charges. @POTUS must understand his harmful rhetoric only empowers repressive regimes to jail reporters & silence the truth. https://t.co/S65iPnPBsN— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) December 13, 2017
McCain issued that rebuke following the release of a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which documented a spike in arrests of journalists around the world. Many of those arrests were driven by crackdowns in China, Turkey, and Egypt, but the report faulted Trump for “coz[ying] up to strongmen” in those countries.
“At the same time, President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric, fixation on Islamic extremism, and insistence on labeling critical media 'fake news' serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists,” the CPJ report said. “Globally, nearly three-quarters of journalists are jailed on anti-state charges, many under broad and vague terror laws, while the number imprisoned on a charge of ‘false news,’ though modest, rose to a record 21.”
Trump has used the term as a pejorative for media coverage he regards as inaccurate or hostile, most dramatically denouncing CNN during a press conference in January. “You are fake news,” Trump told a reporter after the outlet published a story on a salacious dossier of unverified allegations pertaining to the incoming president.
The term has gained popularity around the world. McCain has also used the term in the context of the Russia controversy, as when he sought to debunk claims that a controversial Russian lawyer had visited his office.
“FAKE NEWS ALERT,” he wrote in a July Facebook post. “The Russians I've welcomed in my office are true patriots fighting for truth and liberty in Russia. Unfortunately, many have paid a steep price for their bravery — including my friend Boris Nemtsov, the former Russian opposition leader who was killed in the shadow of the Kremlin, and Vladamir Kara-Murza, who has been the victim of more than one poisoning. I will never stop fighting to support the cause of Russians demanding an end to Putin's reign of tyranny and yearning to live in freedom.”