Trump’s war on CNN takes on new significance in merger debate

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, seated with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (L), participate in the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony near the White House in Washington, US Nov. 30, 2017. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Updated 01 December 2017
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Trump’s war on CNN takes on new significance in merger debate

NEW YORK: The war between Donald Trump and CNN has taken a new turn with the government’s challenge to a tie-up between AT&T and the cable news channel’s parent firm Time Warner.
Even as his Justice Department moved to block the deal, the president has stepped up his attacks on the major news network, his most frequent target of “fake news” complaints.
Trump has been attacking CNN since the 2016 campaign, but the latest developments raise questions about whether he is using his power to choke off investment, or even force CNN to be sold to a partner friendlier to the White House.
As the atmosphere has deteriorated, CNN said it would boycott the White House Christmas party “in light of the president’s continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN.”
Trump returned the compliment, with a tweet saying, “Great, and we should boycott Fake News CNN. Dealing with them is a total waste of time!“
CNN is not the dominant force in television news it was decades ago, as Fox News has attracted conservative viewers and MSNBC from the left.
“Unfortunately, our polarized political climate is being reflected in the high ratings for partisan cable outlets,” said Dannagal Young, a University of Delaware professor of communications.
“However, from a democratic perspective, the viability of CNN is arguably more important than ever.”


The massive buyout of Time Warner by AT&T is now in court, with the companies claiming that because it is a “vertical” merger with no overlap of services, competition would not be impacted.
AT&T has said it has no indication that Trump is behind the effort to block the deal.
But some analysts say it’s difficult to separate the legal questions from the political feud between Trump and CNN.
Gabriel Kahn, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, called the antitrust action “highly suspect.”
“Trump’s public war with the network, the fact that he repeatedly demonstrates a vindictiveness against those whom he feels have slighted him, and the way he has politicized every decision in his administration gives good reason to make this quite suspicious,” Kahn said.
“In addition, there is no monopoly on news. Not even close. The market share of even major news organizations has never been slimmer. The sector is gurgling with competition. And AT&T has no real news presence either.”
Trump has gone so far as to launch personal attacks on a CNN journalist during a news conference, and to retweet a video clip in which he appears to slam a CNN avatar to the ground.
CNN, launched by Ted Turner as part of his cable empire, was the only all-news channel from 1980 to 1996, and gained prominence for its coverage of the 1991 Gulf War.


Part of Time Warner since 1996, CNN helped lay the groundwork for modern television journalism with its “breaking news,” its live debates and making news part of the entertainment cycle. It also has a strong international presence.
CNN has been overtaken in viewership by its rivals, failing to benefit from the polarized political atmosphere in the Trump era.
CNN president Jeff Zucker said the mission of the organization remains unchanged.
“We are about the facts. We are about the truth... I don’t think the core mission has changed at all in 37 years,” he said in October. “We have tried to hold those in power accountable.”
Young said the tone of CNN is “middle-of-the-road ideologically, but pointedly critical of the Trump presidency, in particular the way in which the presidency violates core democratic norms.”
According to Kahn, “Fox News serves the right and MSNBC serves the left. This left CNN without a mission for a long time. But now it’s the place to see the two sides yell at one another.”
Kahn said that whether or not the antitrust action is politically motivated, it does appear to help the president.
“I think anything that appears to punish CNN plays well with Trump’s base,” he said. “Everything has been reduced to theater.”


Algerian blogger accused of espionage sentenced to 10 years in prison

Updated 25 May 2018
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Algerian blogger accused of espionage sentenced to 10 years in prison

  • An Algerian blogger arrested last year over social media posts has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage and other charges
  • Charges against the blogger, Merzoug Touati, included “incitement for taking up arms against the state”

ALGIERS: An Algerian blogger arrested last year over social media posts has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage and other charges, a human rights activist said on Friday.
Charges against the blogger, Merzoug Touati, included “incitement for taking up arms against the state” and “encouraging crowd gathering,” said Said Salhi, a member of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
They also included espionage “with foreign agents, in particular from Israel, with the goal of tarnishing Algeria’s diplomatic position,” Salhi said.
Touati was arrested in January 2017 after he published a Facebook message and a video on YouTube on accounts that were later deleted.
One post called for protests against a 2017 finance law, while the video included an interview with an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman who denied accusations by the Algerian authorities that Israel was behind anti-government protests in Algeria at the time.
Amnesty International said it had reviewed court documents that list the posts as evidence against Touati and that it had found “no incitement to violence or advocacy of hatred.”
“Rather, his posts were covered by freedom of expression in relation to his work as a citizen-journalist,” the rights group said in a statement.
Touati was sentenced on Thursday by a court in Bejaia, east of the capital Algiers.
He has 10 days to appeal the verdict, according to Algerian law.