Trump continues to use the phrase “fake news” whenever confronted with reports about his and his administration’s untoward and unconventional behaviors. Journalists are concerned that while other foreign autocratic leaders are now also into using Trump’s “fake news” as their own cudgel to discredit press reports, the proliferation of real “fake news” in the U.S. continues, especially now that the midterm elections are just around the bend.
As far as Trump is concerned, he is not a source of “fake news” because he has been fact checked countless times for twisting or fabricating information to serve his purpose. He can lie straight-faced and not be bothered about it if the press people makes an issue out of his false contentions.
It appears therefore that this U.S. president is taking advantage of the freedom of expression afforded to him by the country, whilst enjoying the powers and privileges afforded to him by his position in the government. Legitimate press people therefore are concerned that Trump’s “fake news” rhetorics and straight-faced lies are convoluting the very essence of journalism; making it difficult for ordinary everyday news readers to discern what is real and what is not.
Even more troubling is that he takes pride in providing the framework on which authoritarian countries have passed laws criminalizing journalists deemed as spreading false information.
“Fake News” Laws Enacted by Other Countries
Eversince Trump became a political figure, it became customary to for him to either lie or cry “fake news” to explain his side of allegations and criticisms thrown at him by those who oppose him. At the same time he can verbally attack opponents by tweeting insults or disrespectful statements, while feeling righteous about his own actions.
Inasmuch as Trump seems to get away with it, autocratic leaders are likewise finding it useful to cite “fake news” on journalists who publish reports contradicting policies or unraveling truths about their respective government’s activities.
Recently, Egypt enacted a law that criminalizes the spread of false information. It also empowers the Egyptian Supreme Court to require websites to obtain a license to operate, as well as impose fines on editors, and suspend and/or block websites deemed as sources of fake news.
Russia, which is already known for carrying out aggressive actions on the press, is now contemplating on laws that will block websites found containing defamatory articles against public figures. The planned law includes holding social media sites responsible for “inaccuracies” posted as comments by their site users.
The list of countries that have passed laws or on the verge of passing laws against “fake news” include Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Concerns being raised by organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders North America is that “fake news laws” will only serve to suppress freedom.