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What the papers said 25 April 2018

rfi English, Apr 25

A press review which looks at American newspapers; the latest report on the global state of the media from Reporters Without Borders.

What are the American papers saying about French president, Emmanuel Macron, currently visiting his US counterpart, Donald Trump?

To find out, you have to look no further than Le Monde.

There, the enthusiasm of the trans-Atlantic media for our man Macron is given the front-page treatment.

It's a big deal, since the Frenchman is Trump's first official state visitor. What the American analysts can't figure out, according to Le Monde, is just what benefit there is in the whole game for Macron, a man who could hardly be more different from the US leader.

National Public Radio (NPR) has suggested that this is, in fact, a high-risk trip for Macron. If the French president returns home without having made clear progress on such key issues as the Iranian nuclear deal, or climate, or the trade war, says NPR, then Trump will have pulled off a diplomatic coup, associating his presidency with the youth, verve and intelligence of Macron for little more than the cost of a state dinner.

So far, according to the New York Times, Macron has obtained nothing.

But the New York daily accepts that the French president's strategy may simply be to occupy a position of influence, to befriend Trump. The NYT notes, for example, Macron's decision to be interviewed last Sunday by Fox News, Trump's favourite channel, despite its reputation for approximation and populist rant. Macron, says the New York Times, clearly knows how to speak to the American leader in his own terms.

But that doesn't change the essential fact that huge divisions remain between the two leaders. The Washington Post lists commerce, climate, Iran, Syria, multilateral relations as among the subjects where the French and US leaders have very different, not to say outright opposed, visions.

The news website Vox underlines the fact that Trump, rarely short of a thundering Tweet, has never publicly criticised Macron. But there are other contenders for the title of Donald's best friend, warns Vox. There's Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, or Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Tough opponents for Macron.

We'll have to wait and see how the Donald treats German Chancellor Angela Merkel, due to arrive in Washington on Friday, a few hours after the French leader leaves.

Democratic politicians hampering press freedom

Today see the publication of the 2018 report on global press freedom by the organisation Reporters Without Borders, an occasion to remind listeners of Donald Trump's campaign description of the media as "enemies of the people," a phrase which Trump unwittingly borrowed from Joseph Stalin.

Stalin and Trump would probably both welcome today's report.

Reporters Without Borders notes a huge increase in political hostility towards the media, with an increasing number of rulers of democratic states now clearly regarding the press as an adversary, rather than as a pillar of democracy.

Norway is the top of the world list for press freedom. North Korea is at the bottom.

Donald Trump's USA has slipped two places to 45th, behind Romania and Burkina Faso. But few European countries have reason to be proud. Serbia and Hungary are noted as particular black spots. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban routinely accuses independent media of discrediting the country internationally.

France has improved its standing by six places, moving up to 33rd overall. But Reporters Without Borders say that's a mechanical improvement, based on the collapse of the standing of certain neighbours.

The president of the French Republicans party, Laurent Wauquiez, and his hard-left counterpart Jean-Luc Mélenchon, are blamed for stoking the blaze of antagonism to journalists.

"Questioning the legitimacy of journalism," warns the Reporters Without Borders review, "is playing with political fire.


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