WASHINGTON – The news out of China this week was bleak: Two more major international media companies – the London-based Guardian and The Washington Post – were added to the nation's Great Firewall, blocked on the internet to the country's 1.4 billion citizens as part of a crackdown on dissent by President Xi Jinping.
The ongoing fade-out of public information coincided with the 30th anniversary this month of the bloodshed of the Tiananmen Square protests, a free speech demonstration that the Communist Party crushed with military force as the world watched in horror.
On Saturday, in Washington, President Donald Trump had a message: The Washington Post, CNN and NBC were, he wrote on Twitter, "Fake and Corrupt News Media." The New York Times and CNN are "truly The Enemy of the People!" MSNBC, which he called "the opposition," was broadcasting "such lies, almost everything they were saying was the opposite of the truth."
"I know it is not at all 'Presidential' to hit back at the Corrupt Media, or people who work for the Corrupt Media, when they make false statements about me or the Trump Administration," Trump declared in another tweet. "Problem is, if you don't hit back, people believe the Fake News is true. So we'll hit back!"
Trump's tweetstorm against the press corps over the past three days, apparently sparked by his belief that he was not getting enough credit for an immigration deal with Mexico, was nothing new. The incendiary words were so routine that the president, after discounting a Times story on the deal as "false," took his motorcade to Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, for five hours of rest and relaxation.
But the president's hostility toward freedom of the press in the United States again stood as a striking companion to the antagonism that authoritarian regimes display toward the free flow of information. Trump's tweets came as an estimated 1 million people in Hong Kong took to the streets to protest a new extradition law announced by the Communist Party, fearing further erosion of the one-country, two-systems autonomy that has existed since the British returned control of the island to Beijing in 1997.