On the same day that President Trump attacked CNN’s international news arm, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced sweeping changes to his own country’s laws that govern foreign news agencies doing business in Russia.
Trump tweeted Saturday evening that, “Fox News is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them for their role as the world’s window.”
Earlier Saturday, meanwhile, news broke that indicated Russia may be preparing to go after American news agencies as well. According to CNN, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed amendments into law that will allow foreign media outlets in Russia to be listed as ‘foreign agents.'” CNN sourced Russian digital news outlet Sputnik News for their report.
The move was packaged by the Kremlin as retaliation for a similar move the U.S. made in September that designated Sputnik and the larger RT agents of the Russian government, a designation reserved for propaganda outlets that required them to register with the U.S. government by October. Both RT and Sputnik receive substantial funding from the Russian government, and the Kremlin is known to play a central role deciding what is reported, and how.
The near-simultaneous announcements have raised eyebrows, however, and the timing of the move makes it difficult to see it as a run of the mill international tit-for-tat.
Whether or not the moves were deliberately coordinated, it seems more than a little conspicuous – and ridiculously careless – that a President of the United States would choose to attack the free press in his own country, however flippantly and toothlessly, within hours of a despotic regime’s announcement that it is manipulating the laws to shut down the foreign press in their country.
There are few governments more hostile to the very notion of a free press than the Kremlin. For those who insist that Trump’s attack on our media are harmless or somehow an exercise in freedom of speech of its own kind, Putin’s absolute power should provide a cautionary tale.