To U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, it was a moment for levity as they sat down to talk last week in Japan on the sidelines of the G-20 economic summit. And the American leader had an idea for what to do with the pack of journalists that was hovering there to take note of the two leaders' first public get-together in a year. "Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn't it?" Trump said. "You don't have this problem in Russia, but we do."
"We also have," Putin answered, in English. "It's the same." Then, according to news accounts of the exchange, the two leaders shared a chuckle over their seemingly self-satisfying repartee.
Trump routinely describes journalists as "the enemy of the people," an expression first common in world literature and a century ago popularized by Russian autocrat Vladimir Lenin. The U.S. president also regularly describes factual mainstream news stories as "fake news," a term he once acknowledged actually described stories he does not like about himself and his administration. He recently called an accurate New York Times story he did not like — about digital U.S. incursions into the Russian power grid — "a virtual act of treason."
The Committee to Protect Journalists said 28 journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin first assumed power in 2000, with the reporters and editors often killed under mysterious circumstances. Many of the Russian journalists, according to the New York-based journalists' advocacy group, were well-known for investigating government corruption and wrong-doing by both national and local Russian officials.
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