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Presidents versus the Press

Populist leaders love the mass media, which enable them to spread their own ideas. But they hate journalism, which asks challenging questions and aims to hold them accountable. That is precisely why we must defend it.

CARACAS – US President Donald Trump has labeled news outlets the “enemy of the people.” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has called journalists “putrid” and “immoral,” and accused them of mounting “sensationalist attacks” against him. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) has labeled them “nobodies, conservatives, know-it-alls, hypocrites,” as well as “fifí” (bourgeois, pretentious) and “chayoteros” (a term implying that they take bribes).

Populist leaders love the mass media, which enable them to spread their own ideas. But they hate journalism, which asks challenging questions and aims to hold them accountable. That is precisely why we must defend it.

Trump, Bolsonaro, and AMLO – who, despite their differences, share nationalist views, populist tactics, and anti-democratic inclinations – have hardly limited themselves to rhetorical attacks. The Trump administration has severely curtailed press access to the White House. It has also revoked or suspended the press credentials of many journalists, based on reasoning so faulty or opaque that judges have ordered them restored.

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