Scores of American newspapers published editorials Aug. 16 defending the value of freedom of the press.
They did so under increasing criticism from a president who has declared the media the enemy in the United States and whose administration goes to great lengths to shape and control his message. (We’ve reprinted one of them in The Telegram's Aug. 18 print edition on page B5).
The newspaper campaign was initiated by The Boston Globe, which wrote in its editorial Aug. 16:
“Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country. Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current U.S. administration are the ‘enemy of the people.’ This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president, much like an old-time charlatan threw out ‘magic’ dust or water on a hopeful crowd.”
Why should we care about that in Canada?
Because you don’t have to look far to see the creeping influence of Trump’s constant diatribes against the media and his tone-deaf trumpeting about “fake news.”
This week in Ontario, Toronto Sun staff photographer Stan Behal described being assaulted as he was covering — wait for it — an anti-hate rally on Aug. 11.
A man lunged to swipe Behal’s hat and in doing so hit him forcefully in the head.
“It was quite painful,” Behal told The Canadian Press in an interview in which he spoke out about the increasing anti-media sentiment he is experiencing — more now than at any time during his 35-year career.
“The public is getting the message that you can get away with this, especially when someone as high-profile as the president of the United States says that we’re the ‘enemy of the people,’” Behal said. “That’s scary. That really makes what we do very difficult.”
Why should we care about that in Canada? Because you don’t have to look far to see the creeping influence of Trump’s constant diatribes against the media and his tone-deaf trumpeting about “fake news.”
And then there’s Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who during his brief tenure has already demonstrated his intentions to control his message and thwart the media.
Ford has launched “Ontario News Now” accounts on social media featuring a staffer (and former broadcaster) delivering carefully crafted messages, news-style, touting Ford’s acumen and accomplishments.
“A new day has dawned at Hydro One,” Ontario News Now tweeted Thursday. “Premier Ford is taking action to clean up the hydro mess and restore transparency and accountability.”
Ford has also decried as fake news media reports that in cancelling a universal basic income pilot project, his government had gone back on an election vow not to shelve it.
And his staffers are not above grabbing microphones from reporters’ hands during scrums or drowning out reporters’ questions during news conferences.
So, vigilance is required here, as well as south of the border.
If, as Canadians, we value freedom of the press, we must speak out to safeguard it when it comes under threat.
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