Trump Hurting Global Democracy, Human Rights & Media Freedom? Many Credible Media & Analysis Say “Yes”

The following is from Bloomberg, Washington Post & Human Rights Watch. From Bloomberg comes Trump is destroying global democracy. From Washington Post, on how Trump is destroying global media freedom and from Human Rights Watch how Trump is destroying global human rights.

From Bloomberg View:

Trump Could Undermine Democracy Outside the U.S.

Sending a message of democratic decay around the world.

President Donald Trump’s approach to democracy, conflicted at best, is settling into a familiar groove. Attacks on the news media, the scapegoating of vulnerable minorities and periodic assaults on the concept of truth, as well as on specific facts, have become hallmarks of his administration.

At the same time, democracy has gotten a few licks in as well. Trump obediently retreated from his Muslim ban at the direction of the courts, and his White House has been leaky, a boon to the free flow of information.

But it remains unclear whether the Republican Congress and other key U.S. institutions have the resiliency and will to repel Trump’s attacks, including the continuing stonewalling on we-don’t-know-what-exactly regarding Russia. (Trump’s sudden aura of competence after his speech to Congress was undermined a day later by a well-timed leak on how Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared to mislead the Senate under oath about his Russia contacts.)

The effect of Trump on societies with weaker democratic institutions is also unknown. But the very existence of a would-be authoritarian thrashing around the American government, forever threatening to break free of institutional constraints, sends a jarring message around the world.

The New York Times published a story on Wednesday about “anti-Soros” forces in Europe being emboldened by Trump’s election. Substitute the word “democracy” for the name of the financier and open-society enthusiast George Soros, and the story still holds.

In Soros’s native Hungary, the Trumpian prime minister, Viktor Orban, has for years been undermining democratic norms and institutions, badgering opponents and bludgeoning the independence of the news media. He is using this hour of authoritarian ascendance to step up his attacks on groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as “foreign agents financed by foreign money.”

Last week in Hungary, an Amnesty spokesman told EUObserver, “The government accused Amnesty of producing fake reports and of inciting migrants to break laws.”

Fake” reports and law-breaking immigrants. There’s something vaguely familiar about those themes, isn’t there? In a speech earlier this week, Orban said Hungary’s economic success depends on the nation’s “ethnic homogeneity  (read more).”

Washington Post (source)

How Trump is undermining press freedom around the world

Global press freedom has long been in decline and is now at its lowest point in the past 13 years, according to Freedom House’s latest assessment, released last week. What is new, and especially disquieting, are the mounting pressures on the media in the United States, including sharp attacks on reporters by the Trump administration. This raises the question of whether America will continue to serve as a model for other countries.

The United States remains an oasis, one of the few places in the world where aggressive journalistic investigation can be practiced with few legal restrictions and little physical danger to reporters. But even here, press freedom has been weakening for some time, well before the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Recent administrations have battled the press, even threatening some reporters with jail time for refusing to identify sources. An entire news organization (Gawker) was wiped out because of a successful lawsuit funded by a billionaire. Meanwhile, outlets that profess to be legitimate news media but are in fact propaganda instruments hold the ideals of neutrality and honest reporting in disdain.

Since Trump’s rise to the presidency, however, matters have taken a turn for the worse. The new White House derides and belittles journalists and media organizations in the hope of undermining the credibility of the press. In so doing, the administration is aggressively promoting the notion that nuance and facts are irrelevant — a staple concept of Russian information warfare.

No president in recent memory has forged a record of such unrelenting scorn for the media, and at such an early stage in an administration, as has President Trump. In so doing, the administration provides welcome ammunition to those in other countries working both to destroy independent media in their own societies and to undermine the principle that freedom of thought and open access to information are the rights of all people, everywhere.

Russia and China represent the vanguard in the war against press freedom worldwide. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have intensified restrictions on their own journalists, leading to a string of murders in Russia and prosecutions in China. Both governments have also tried to shape the global media environment through propaganda and, in the case of China, a campaign to destroy the very concept of a global Internet. It’s harder for the United States to meaningfully condemn such actions if its administration maintains that fact-based journalists are the enemy of the American people.

Authoritarian rulers in countries as diverse as Venezuela, Turkey and Ethiopia are mimicking the Moscow-Beijing playbook, throwing reporters in jail, subjecting them to violence, and suppressing Internet freedom and social media. In all these cases, Trump and his entourage have either remained silent or actively abetted bad behavior. (Turkey, to name but one example, now accounts for one-third of the world’s imprisoned journalists — yet that didn’t stop Trump from congratulating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his recent victory in a constitutional referendum that entailed a broad crackdown on the media.)

Equally disturbing are recent setbacks in democracies such as Hungary and Poland, where the decline in press freedom has been accomplished with remarkable speed. Poland’s Law and Justice party government is systematically undermining the independent media, asserting control over public broadcasters. In Hungary, the ruling Fidesz party has gradually warped the media sector in its favor through politicized ownership changes and the closure of critical outlets. Both countries, members of the European Union and NATO, are allies of the United States. Yet Washington is doing nothing to make its influence felt.

The United States will not necessarily follow the path of those faltering democracies, much less of Russia and China. Compared with many other democracies, the United States has stronger constitutional guarantees of press freedom and freedom of speech, and more robust legislative and judicial systems with records of independence in the face of executive overreach.

The danger is that the new U.S. leadership may, in effect, be offering a license to governments elsewhere that have cracked down on the media as part of a more ambitious authoritarian strategy. There is little doubt that autocrats everywhere are watching what the United States does — and what its new president says. The duty of the press is to hold government accountable, not be its spokesperson or propaganda arm. The government has a duty to respect that obligation.

When political figures in the United States deride the media for helping citizens hold their government accountable, they encourage foreign leaders with autocratic goals to do the same. When U.S. officials step back from promoting democracy and press freedom, journalists beyond American shores feel the chill. A weakening of press freedom in the United States would be a setback for freedom everywhere.

From Human Rights Watch

The Dangerous Rise of Populism

Global Attacks on Human Rights Values

Human rights exist to protect people from government abuse and neglect. Rights limit what a state can do and impose obligations for how a state must act. Yet today a new generation of populists is turning this protection on its head. Claiming to speak for “the people,” they treat rights as an impediment to their conception of the majority will, a needless obstacle to defending the nation from perceived threats and evils. Instead of accepting rights as protecting everyone, they privilege the declared interests of the majority, encouraging people to adopt the dangerous belief that they will never themselves need to assert rights against an overreaching government claiming to act in their name.

The appeal of the populists has grown with mounting public discontent over the status quo. In the West, many people feel left behind by technological change, the global economy, and growing inequality. Horrific incidents of terrorism generate apprehension and fear. Some are uneasy with societies that have become more ethnically, religiously and racially diverse. There is an increasing sense that governments and the elite ignore public concerns.

In this cauldron of discontent, certain politicians are flourishing and even gaining power by portraying rights as protecting only the terrorist suspect or the asylum seeker at the expense of the safety, economic welfare, and cultural preferences of the presumed majority. They scapegoat refugees, immigrant communities, and minorities. Truth is a frequent casualty. Nativism, xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia are on the rise.

This dangerous trend threatens to reverse the accomplishments of the modern human rights movement. In its early years, that movement was preoccupied with the atrocities of World War II and the repression associated with the Cold War. Having seen the evil that governments can do, states adopted a series of human rights treaties to limit and deter future abuse. Protecting these rights was understood as necessary for individuals to live in dignity. Growing respect for rights laid the foundation for freer, safer, and more prosperous societies.

But today, a growing number of people have come to see rights not as protecting them from the state but as undermining governmental efforts to defend them. In the United States and Europe, the perceived threat at the top of the list is migration, where concerns about cultural identity, economic opportunity, and terrorism intersect. Encouraged by populists, an expanding segment of the public sees rights as protecting only these “other” people, not themselves, and thus as dispensable. If the majority wants to limit the rights of refugees, migrants, or minorities, the populists suggest, it should be free to do so. That international treaties and institutions stand in the way only intensifies this antipathy toward rights in a world where nativism is often prized over globalism.

It is perhaps human nature that it is harder to identify with people who differ from oneself, and easier to accept violation of their rights. People take solace in the hazardous assumption that the selective enforcement of rights is possible—that the rights of others can be compromised while their own remain secure.

But rights by their nature do not admit an à la carte approach. You may not like your neighbors, but if you sacrifice their rights today, you jeopardize your own tomorrow, because ultimately rights are grounded on the reciprocal duty to treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. To violate the rights of some is to erode the edifice of rights that inevitably will be needed by members of the presumed majority in whose name current violations occur.

We forget at our peril the demagogues of yesteryear—the fascists, communists, and their ilk who claimed privileged insight into the majority’s interest but ended up crushing the individual. When populists treat rights as an obstacle to their vision of the majority will, it is only a matter of time before they turn on those who disagree with their agenda. The risk only heightens when populists attack the independence of the judiciary for upholding the rule of law—that is, for enforcing the limits on governmental conduct that rights impose.

Such claims of unfettered majoritarianism, and the attacks on the checks and balances that constrain governmental power, are perhaps the greatest danger today to the future of democracy in the West (read more).


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