Muftic: Trump’s war on press freedom |

Muftic: Trump’s war on press freedom

Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo |

Everyday I am grateful for this country.

I know that if I lived in Putin’s Russia or Erdogan’s Turkey or any number of countries in the world ruled by “strong men” or despots, I could risk my life or freedom by writing this column that often is in opposition to our country’s Leader’s view of the world and issues.

Fundamentally important first steps enabling despots to rise to power and their keeping it was their destruction of the freedom of press by degrading, killing, or imprisoning journalists and bankrupting opposition press through manipulation by various means.

If citizens only hear one slant on the news, mind control follows.

Having many outlets funded by a variety of owners permits those in a democracy to come to their own conclusions which may even be contrary to the interests of their dear leader. As those who studied the methods of control of media by despots, know that it happens in steps and slowly until it is too late for any opposition to find a public voice.

For the sake of our democracy, any tendencies of political leaders to try to destroy press freedom must be recognized and nipped in the bud at the beginning before it is too late.

I lived in Berlin in the late 1950s with a front row seat to the Stalinization of Eastern Germany and I married a refugee from dictator Tito’s Yugoslavia, visiting that Communist country frequently for many years. I spent my time in Berlin on a quest of understanding how Hitler rose to power in an educated, western cultural country.

What I did learn was that the first step in consolidating power was destruction of the free press.

Our founders even in the 1700s understood that and wrote protections in the First Amendment of our Constitution.

For that reason, media in the United States was once called the fourth estate, the fourth branch of government checking each other’s power in addition to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

In our divided country, thanks to the Trump campaign and administration, we have begun questioning any “truth” or “facts” presented by the “other” side. Claiming there are no credible facts except those presented by the Leader Hitler called contrary press, the lying press. Lügenpresse is a tool wannabe dictators have used to destroy freedom of the press.

In fact, at campaign rallies some of Trump supporters aggressively chanted “Lügenpresse” at reporters.

Especially alarming is Donald Trump’s recent attack on CNN and his stated embrace of only one approved cable news network, FOX News.

Those media outlets who present facts contrary to his pronouncements or criticize him are often called “fake news.” Trump Thanksgiving weekend tweeted to declare that Fox News “is much more important in the United States than CNN.” At the same time his Justice Department sued to block a media merger that critics claimed was a move to force the sale of CNN, a frequent target of Trump as the conveyor of “fake news.”

At the same time, Trump’s appointed Federal Communications Commission enacted rules paving the way for the merger of a pro Trump group, Sinclair Media, with Tribune Media.

His FCC approved rules also repealed the rule prohibiting print media to also own TV and radio stations.

These actions overtly strengthen domination of major markets by his chosen media.

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