Trump speaks admiringly of the censored Pakistani press – Washington Examiner

Trump speaks admiringly of the censored Pakistani press – Washington Examiner

After 15 minutes of shouted questions from boisterous Pakistani journalists, President Trump turned to Imran Khan, the country’s prime minister, and asked: “Where do you find reporters like this?”

“These guys are fantastic,” Trump said.

Speaking ahead of his meeting with Khan, the former cricketer turned politician, the American president had been feted by the traveling press as America’s first “honest” leader and a potential Nobel Prize winner in questions that more often resembled statements. The result was a love-in as Trump relaxed and joked with the journalists.

An hour later, things could not have been more different. He was back in the same seat in the same room. This time Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland, was in the other chair. He was reduced to the role of observer as Trump launched a trademark onslaught against the White House press corps who had traveled with him to New York.

“You people ought to be ashamed of yourself,” he said with a glare, as he was quizzed on exactly what he did and did not say in a phone call with the president of Ukraine about Joe Biden. “And not all. We have some great journalists around. But you got a lot of crooked journalists. You’re crooked as hell.”

And with that, the press were ushered hurriedly out of the conference room of the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel, where Trump was installed for an afternoon of back-to-back, one-on-one meetings with world leaders.

The difference between the two sessions marked highs and lows of Trump’s relationship with the press within a day. While one set of reporters was out to destroy him, the other was fully behind the leader of their country, or so it seemed to Trump.

So in the first session, one questioner began his comments on Kashmir by accusing India of being the aggressor, while another said that Trump would deserve a Nobel Prize if he could finally end the conflict.

Trump heard journalists apparently backing Khan’s policy of pressuring India to resolve Kashmir.

“There’s a tremendous spirit from your press,” said Trump to Khan. “I don’t see that. With us, they want to always tear our country down. And with your press, it’s really — they would like to see something positive for your country.”

Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at Iona College, said it was easy to see that Trump was reveling in the change of pace from the usual questions about American electoral politics.

“For Donald Trump, he wants those softball questions that he was getting from those reporters,” she said. “But that reflects a form of government and a role of the press which he’s reading as pro-U.S., when it might be more complicated that.”

The answers may lie in Pakistan’s complicated relationship with a free press. While deregulation brought an explosion of TV channels and raucous news shows, the country’s powerful military establishment has frequently been accused of murdering or beating journalists who probed its own role in corruption or links to terrorist groups.

Many journalists believe things have worsened since Khan took power. The government is planning to set up media courts to resolve disputes, but journalists fear it is an attempt to bury them in litigation and tighten control further.

During the summer, opposition parties accused the prime minister of intimidating broadcasters to de-platform his critics of after several channels were taken off air.

Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Wilson Center, said: “I do think over the last year or so as the military has become emboldened, sending the message that if you want to stay on the air or if you want to stay in circulation, to stay away from certain themes and emphasize others.”


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