Trump cited in threat to close for­eign news out­lets

New Straits Times - - World -

In a sign that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s crit­i­cism of the news me­dia may be hav­ing a rip­ple ef­fect over­seas, a gov­ern­ment spokesman in Cam­bo­dia has cited the United States leader in threat­en­ing to shutter for­eign news out­lets, in­clud­ing some that re­ceive money from Wash­ing­ton.

The spokesman, Phay Siphan, said that for­eign news groups, in­clud­ing the US-fi­nanced Voice of Amer­ica and Ra­dio Free Asia, should “re­con­sider” how they broad­cast — or risk a gov­ern­ment re­sponse if their re­ports spread dis­in­for­ma­tion or threat­ened peace and sta­bil­ity.

The White House de­ci­sion to bar news out­lets, in­clud­ing The

New York Times, CNN and Politico, from a brief­ing last week, Phay Siphan said in a Face­book post on Satur­day, “is based on the power and man­date of the state”.

The de­ci­sion, he wrote, “sends a clear mes­sage” that Trump “sees that news broad­cast by those me­dia out­lets does not re­flect the truth, which is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists”.

“Free­dom of ex­pres­sion,” he wrote, “is sub­ject to the law and must re­spect the state’s power”.

Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen echoed Phay Siphan’s re­marks but stopped short of threat­en­ing to close prob­lem­atic news out­lets, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in The

Phnom Penh Post news­pa­per. Crit­ics say Hun Sen’s gov­ern­ment is us­ing Trump’s words to jus­tify a crack­down on crit­i­cal news cov­er­age be­fore two elec­tions, adding that the move could her­ald a new tac­tic in ef­forts to sup­press free speech by gov­ern­ments in South­east Asia.

The Face­book com­ments “show pretty clearly that as soon as there are per­cep­tions that the US has wa­vered on its com­mit­ment to press free­dom, then coun­tries with au­thor­i­tar­ian ten­den­cies are quick to aban­don any pre­tense of al­low­ing the me­dia to op­er­ate freely”, said Shawn W. Crispin, the Bangkok-based rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists.

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