Even though this story is a bit over a day old, it’s still worth a look. The President was recognized for yet another “honor” from the press this week, when the Committee to Protect Journalists declared that Donald Trump was the greatest oppressor of the free press on the planet. And no… I’m not even making this up. (The Hill)
The Committee to Protect Journalists named President Trump as the winner of its “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom” award in its “Press Oppressors” awards Monday.
The committee released a list of top global press oppressors on Monday in response to Trump’s upcoming “fake news” awards, giving Trump the top honor.
This is a complete break from the traditional role of the CPJ, which formerly provided a useful service fighting actual press suppression and acts of violence in legitimately authoritarian regimes around the globe. That all began to change when Sandra Mims Rowe took over the organization a few years ago. Back in October, the CPJ was already sending signals that they were coming after Trump. WaPo media columnist Margaret Sullivan praised their decision at the time, describing it as, “measured and restrained,” building to “a powerful conclusion.”
For decades, Sandra Mims Rowe was a rigorous newspaper editor who demanded deep reporting from the journalists she led. Her newsrooms in cities including Norfolk and Portland, Ore., won awards — and respect — because she pushed for greater truths.
So it’s not surprising that Rowe would do the same when an idea surfaced at the Committee to Protect Journalists, where she has been board chairwoman for five years.
The idea: CPJ would make a strong statement against Donald Trump on First Amendment grounds — the kind of thing the organization had never done before. CPJ’s global mission is to try to keep journalists from being jailed or killed; but it hasn’t been involved before in politics.
It’s truly a shame to see an organization like CPJ beclowning themselves in this fashion just to bolster their credentials with the #RESIST crowd. The fact is that their stated mission and fundamental raison d’etre is still badly needed in today’s world. In the “about” section of their website, they can find an important reminder of what it was they originally set out to do. “Every year, hundreds of journalists are attacked, imprisoned, or killed. For more than 35 years, CPJ has been there to defend them and fight for press freedom.”
Yes, we understand that your feelings were hurt when the President coined the term “fake news.” And no, it’s certainly no fun when media analysts point out mistakes made by your colleagues or the incredibly unbalanced level of attacks on Donald Trump in particular and conservatives in general when compared to the loving embrace you gave to Barack Obama and continue to offer to Democrats and the #RESIST movement today. But there are actual battles out there for you to be fighting.
In Russia, the government doesn’t just complain about fake news and hurt your feelings. They have journalists murdered. An equally alarming number of graves are filled with the bodies of reporters in Mexico, though whether that’s being done by the government or the drug cartels is hard to say. (Mostly because it’s often difficult to tell the two apart.) Turkey imprisons more journalists than any other nation, numbering in the hundreds, and many of them are suspected to be dead. And Venezuela is catching up quickly. The list goes on in depressing fashion.
Here in the United States, there is an absolute dearth of journalists being murdered by the government. As for throwing them in jail, I don’t recall any significant jail time for U.S. reporters since Josh Wolf and Judith Miller, and neither of them was imprisoned to “stop them from reporting” on the government. Those were instances of reporters refusing to divulge information relating to ongoing criminal cases. And who has Trump thrown in jail? Heck, he couldn’t even figure out how to lock up Hillary Clinton. I seriously doubt he’ll manage it with Jake Tapper.
This is a dark day for the CPJ. Sadly, their new lack of credibility is an entirely self-inflicted wound.