Open wars against a free press

A man wears a shirt reading “Rope. Tree. Journalist.” as supporters gather to rally with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a cargo hangar at Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

At a time when the President of the United States has declared all-out war against the press, a newspaper publisher in Juarez, Mexico, announced he was shutting down his newspaper because of an increase of killings of journalists in that country.

“Everything in life has a beginning and an end, a price to pay,” wrote Oscar A. Cantu Murguia, owner of Norte, the paper he is shutting down. “And if this is life, I am not prepared for any more of my collaborators to pay it, or with my own person.”

Cantú said he made his decision, which costs 150 employees of his newspaper their jobs, after the killing of Miroslava Breach, a 54-year-old newspaper reporter and mother three, who was gunned down outside her home in front of one of her children.

She was the third journalist in Mexico to be violently attacked in just one month.

“On this day, esteemed reader, I address you to report that I have made the decision to close this newspaper due to the fact that, among other things, there are neither the guarantees nor the security to exercise critical, counterbalance journalism,” Cantú wrote in the final edition of the paper under the headline “Adios!”

His actions come at a time when President Donald Trump threatens the exercise of a free press in America, a nation where the Constitutions is supposed to guarantee such freedoms.

Trump threatens to “loosen libel laws” to “punish” papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post for their reporting of his many misdeeds and mistakes.

Says Trump:

I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.

Trump’s favorite threat is to sue anyone who writes anything unflattering about him.

“I will be bringing more libel suits as people–maybe against you folks. I don’t want to threaten, but I find that the press is unbelievably dishonest,” he told The Washington Post.

Despite his claims that he doesn’t “want to threaten,” his use of threats is a common tool.

In 2015, he threatened to sue The Daily Beast for reporting the true story that former wife Ivana Trump had charged him with raping her in 1989.

He added:

I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.

Even worse, U.S. District Court Judge David J. Hale last Friday ruled that Trump “incites to riot” crowds that pose serious threats of violence against anyone who speaks out against him.

Hale said Trump inflamed a crowd of his supporters to violently attack three protests on March 1, 2016.

“As they were protesting,” the judge wrote in his ruling, Trump said ‘Get ‘m out of here.”

Hale noted a pattern of Trump’s statements to his rabid supporters that he said encouraged violence, like a Nov. 21, 2015, rally in Birmingham, Ala., where saying a protester attacked by the crowd “should have been, maybe he should have been roughed up.”

Or the Feb. 1, 2016 rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where “Trump instructed those in the crowd to ‘knock the crap out of’ anyone who was ‘getting ready to throw a tomato.’ Trump followed this instruction by saying, ‘Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell …’ Trump continued by ensuring the crowd that if and when they took heed of his instruction, he would cover their legal fees …”

Or these incidents, reported by The Washington Post:

A Feb. 22, 2016 rally in Las Vegas at which Trump “expressed his desire for the way things once were: ‘I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher folks.’”

A March 4, 2016 rally in Warren, Mich., during which Trump asked that a protester be removed, urged people not to hurt him, but then said, “‘If you do, I’ll defend you in court. Don’t worry about it.’”

Judge Hale adds that a lawsuit accusing Trump of inciting violence against protesters is valid when they “allege throughout the complaint that Trump knew or should have known that his statements would result in violence, and they describe a prior Trump rally at which a protester was attacked. The Court finds these allegations to be sufficient.”

Trump’s actions, and his animosity against the press, remind many who have been around long enough to remember Richard Nixon and Watergate, to recall Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell’s response to Carol Bernstein’s phone call to obtain a response on one of the Watergate stories:

“All that crap, you’re putting it in the paper? It’s all been denied. Jesus. Katie Graham (Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post) is gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that’s published. Good Christ. That’s the most sickening thing I’ve ever heard.”

Yes, Watergate was the most sickening thing most have ever heard about back in the 1970s.

Until now.

Leave a Reply