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Newly Released Comey Memo Leaves Journalists Even More Concerned For Their Freedoms

President Trump’s ongoing war with the news media may have reached the boiling point when he allegedly suggested jail time for reporters who disclose classified government information, according to Yahoo News.

The New York Times revealed a memo by former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired last week, concerning a February conversation between the two men at the White House. In addition to seeking an end to the bureau’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the president purportedly asked Comey to prosecute journalists. “Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates,” the Times story stated.

Joel Simon, executive director of the independent, non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists, told Yahoo News: “My immediate reaction is that it’s crazy and scary. It suggests that the kind of rhetorical attacks on the media that have become sort of background noise at this point — actually, there was an attempt by the president to translate those ideas into actions that could affect the ability of journalists to do their work.”

When asked to explain why his organization has called Trump an “unprecedented threat to press freedom,” Simon explained: “His language is unprecedented in terms of the way he talks about the media and views its role. The damage done by that language to rights of journalists around the world is very significant because he’s normalizing the kind of language that autocratic leaders generally use when they talk about the media.”

Simon slammed the president for inviting autocratic foreign leaders to the White House. “When he met with (Turkish President) Erdoğan ... he completed what we call the ‘Press Freedom Violators’ trifecta,” the CPJ director said. “He’s now met with the three leading jailers of journalists. He’s met with Erdoğan of Turkey, (President Abdel Fattah) el-Sisi of Egypt and Xi (Jinping) of China.”

Simon continued: “In terms of journalists in the United States, let’s acknowledge that the attacks have been rhetorical. Journalists find that chilling, but for the most part they’re able to do their jobs. But this is an escalation, or a potential escalation, so the threat is very real. This is a reminder, and what hasn’t been borne out, yet it still something we need to be cognizant of. … When he condemns American journalists as ‘enemies of the American people,’ or he lashes out and calls CNN ‘fake news,’ that’s alarming, obviously.”

Source: Yahoo News
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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