Sunday, March 3, 2024

‘The media is the enemy of the people’

No African president or ‘third world dictator’ advised newly-minted US President Donald Trump about the perceived ‘evil’ lurking in newsrooms or behind those cameras, pens and notebooks.

The new kid on the block figured it all by himself and repeatedly told people on the campaign trail how much of “low lives” journalists are.

And, suddenly realizing that campaigning is much easier than being president, he has upped the message since becoming president.

I find it grotesque that Donald Trump, the man who has, over many decades, cultivated, busked in and enjoyed the presence of both local and international media now stands up and declares that the media, especially American media, is the enemy of the people.

In all the time he enjoyed and existed with the media and within it, he never realized that the media has no friends; that the media is a serious realty show unlike the drivel he used to present on television.

He does not seem to understand that the media is watching, like it has always done, more the Office of the President than him personally.

Trump’s disdain for the media is one common thing that is emerging between himself and dictators around the world.

When the media says what dictators want to hear, all is well yet all is not well.

If the media says anything contrary to the Dear Leader, they suddenly are all “fake news” and are the “dishonest media”.

When journalists in Africa are critical of the nation’s president or government, the journalists are always accused of being “stooges of the West”.

I fear that the US President, who fancies himself as media savvy, will get terribly disappointed because a true media is honest to reality and facts.

And the US media will never leave him alone as, already, they have dug up lots of dirt and can smell much more down the tunnel.

This has forced Trump’s advisers and subordinates to come up with “alternative facts” which have backfired on the Administration.

So the US President rattles against “fake news” being put out by mainstream news organizasations ÔÇô the same news organizations that just about helped to create his presidency.

It’s only been about 40 days into his presidency and the media is having much more fun than he is.

Trump’s childish addiction to Twitter is also giving fodder to the media who rightly pick at every presidential posting and dutifully comment – thereby causing Trump to engage the media in a shouting match that only produces more scrutiny of him and his remarks.

He has been severely stung by information leaks and goes bonkers when he reads about “unnamed White House sources” to the extent that his staff once confiscated White House employees’ cellphones ÔÇô a poor reaction to a normal occurrence.

Presidents also deliberately use leaks and unnamed sources to float out an idea to gauge people’s reaction before taking a public stand.

Clearly, Trump has a lot to learn about the news media. In the meantime, he is telling his followers that the media is the enemy of the people.

Admittedly, the US media at first covered Trump looking for points of laughter rather than taking him seriously.

Yes, the US media unwittingly created Trump and they became mad after finding out that they could not control him since he did not subscribe to their decades-old protocols.

But now Trump is in office and is an unavoidable subject for the media. While he loves the media, he doesn’t appreciate the angle they take in approaching him.

Trump’s “hatred” of the media is not only bad to journalism in both the United States and other so-called democracies, it is so very bad for journalists in those parts of the world that, at least, avoided abuse of journalists because of their close or cordial relationship with the United States.

Yes, the United States did try to keep an eye on the treatment of reporters but not always.

I remember very well when the US Embassy in Botswana spoke out against cases concerning editors of the Sunday Standard.

The US Embassy’s statement of disapproval went a long way towards informing both the government of Botswana and all citizens that the action that Botswana had taken against (in this case the Sunday Standard) editors was not compatible with democratic behavior.

The statement also announced to other countries that the US did not accept the harassment of journalists.

We might not be aware but this went a long way towards assisting journalists in many countries and it helped to make some leaders go easy on the ill-treatment of journalists ÔÇô although with less success than otherwise expected.

But there were unsaid but existent penalties that could be applied if a government ignored the US’s displeasure.

Sunday Standard Editor, Outsa Mokone’s sedition charges are a clear indication that Donald Trump shares the same feelings towards journalists as African governments do.

Should we, again, expect an intervention from the US when its own president is ranting and raving against the media that is not favourable to him?

Mokone challenged Botswana’s sedition law and, as expected, lost the case ÔÇô what’s new in Africa?

Laws that curtail journalists are all over Africa’s constitutions. African leaders want to control information and they always want to be portrayed positively.

And mid last week, Zimbabwe’s Wisdom Mudzungairi and Richard Chidza, Editor and reporter of Zimbabwe’s Newsday, were arrested “on charges of undermining or insulting the President” for having informed the nation that Mugabe had, once again, quietly made a hasty trip back to Singapore for “a medical checkup”.

Apparently, the health of an African president is classified information, especially when he commandeers national airline planes or is picked up by private jets at tax payers’ expense.

He just returned from there a couple of weeks ago, for goodness sake, and he and his family have all gone back again…quietly but at tax payers’ expense.

And the reporters who told the nation this alarming development about their dear, beloved leader are under arrest for “insulting and undermining” the aged almighty.

God have mercy!

As Trump says, this is fake news from the dishonesty media.

African leaders and dictators are today smiling because, in Trump, they have found a kindred; they have found one who believes in what they believe: that any media that does not sing praises of its president is fake and dishonest.

Americans are lucky that their president can yelp and growl all he wants, there is only so much he can do to kill the media that is well protected by their constitution.

In Africa, the president and his ruling party are the law and they can literally kill both the reporter and the paper with no questions asked. 


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