China announced that it will expel journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal due to rising tensions between China and the United States.
This announcement comes at a time where the mainstream media claims that the Trump administration is assailing press freedom, while China’s move defines the meaning of press censorship outside of the United States.
Since President Donald Trump’s election, the media has called Trump’s verbal criticism of the media “attacks” on press freedom.
Fox News host Chris Wallace claimed that Trump “is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history” and “has done everything he can to undercut the media, to try and delegitimize us.”
Trump’s anti-media rants, tweets, and statements antagonize the press and media, but it is not to the level of assaulting press freedom as the likes of China. Though it might be a low bar to compare the United States’ democratic government to Chinese authoritarianism, the media’s use of hyperbole has been overdone.
Trump has limited press coverage from particular news outlets and White House correspondents, but at times, it was due to Trump’s claim that said outlet or correspondent presented biased coverage of his administration. His administration has not prosecuted journalists for alleged leaks and crimes, unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Obama treated Fox News and conservative-leaning media poorly during his presidency. The Obama administration prosecuted then-Fox News reporter James Rosen for working with a government contractor as a potential “criminal co-conspirator” under the 1917 Espionage Act. The Obama-era Justice Department also monitored phone calls of Associated Press reporters and editors in 2013. If anything, Obama should be named as a perpetrator of assaulting press freedoms as much as Trump.
China’s expulsion of reporters from U.S. media outlets is a real example of suppressing press freedoms. The Chinese government asked reporters to return their press credentials within ten days, are restricted from reporting in mainland China, Macao and Hong Kong. The government also reclassified Time and Voice of America as “foreign missions” and issued several new compliance requirements for those media outlets.
As combative the Trump administration is with the mainstream media, it has not stooped to the lows that the Chinese government has. The media should refrain from engaging in hyperbole that the Trump administration is assaulting press freedom when the likes of China restrict press freedom on a larger scale and more punitively than the Trump administration.