Some of us have noticed something over the last few years: The term “fake news” has gone all around the world. I saw, when preparing a piece on Nicaragua earlier this month, that the Ortega regime dismisses reports by human-rights groups as “noticias falsas” — fake news.
Duterte, in the Philippines, uses the term as well. He wields it against Maria Ressa, for example. She is that phenomenally brave journalist who, with other such journalists, was honored by Time magazine. Bashar Assad says “fake news.” So do Maduro, Erdogan, and Xi. So does the Burmese dictatorship, which denounces the very existence of the Rohingya people, whom it has brutalized, as “fake news.”
In Mexico, the new president, nicknamed “AMLO,” does something interesting. He speaks of “la prensa fifí” — the fancy press (as against the populist, tabloid press, which depends on government advertising and supports him).
I am bringing up all this now because of news today out of Russia. I will quote the first paragraph of a report from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty:
President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation enabling Russian authorities to block websites and hand out punishment for “fake news” and material deemed insulting to the state or the public.
Many times, when people — especially strongmen — say “fake news,” they do not mean incorrect or malicious reporting. They mean inconvenient or unwelcome news. In Russia, Putin has now pulled an already tight noose tighter.