Press row points to double standards

Editorial | Mary Ma 4 Dec 2019

Hong Kong protesters like to hold America up as a beacon in regards to freedoms, but what is happening of late in relation to the US presidential election shows that there is more than a touch of double standards.

While a media organization is free to report on topics it chooses as part of its editorial judgement, Bloomberg News' policy not to investigate its owner, Michael Bloomberg, and his Democratic rivals during the election primaries following the billionaire's announcement of his entry into the race for the party's presidential nomination is troublesome.

Though it is the media outlet's established policy to avoid probing into the affairs of its owner and his family, the move is basically a form of self-censorship.

Perhaps the practice isn't uncommon, but it is still a troublesome one.

Small wonder then when that announcement had US President Donald Trump's camp in a huff.

However, the quick retaliatory move by Trump's campaign to revoke the press credentials of Bloomberg News journalists can be more problematic than the agency's expressed editorial policy of excluding its owner from journalistic investigation.

It's not the first time Trump has resorted to the draconian tactic of banning certain reporters.

However, when his campaign canceled the credentials of reporters from The Washington Post, Politico, Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post in 2016, he was but a candidate running for presidential office, while as the master of the White House and the commander-in-chief of the United States, he now has the constitutional obligation to do everything possible to protect a freedom that is at the core of values that his country claims to hold dear.

Trump's campaign spokeswoman was right to condemn Bloomberg News for its plan to spare its billionaire owner from harsh examinations but not so for Trump.

However, it is foolish to respond to the unfairness by booting reporters of the news agency out of Trump's campaign events. Two wrongs, as the adage goes, never make a right, not even in Trump's self-serving political universe.

While it is improper of Bloomberg News to go against public interest by stepping back from subjecting its boss to critical journalistic scrutiny although its owner may become the US president and should be held accountable to the American public, Trump is setting an extremely bad example by giving deferential treatment to selective media outlets.

What is that if not abuse of power.

Prior to ex-New York mayor Bloomberg's announcement of his presidential bid, Trump's hostility was firmly locked on former vice president Joe Biden, who, at certain stages, appeared most likely to be the Democratic candidate to go head to head with Trump in November's blockbuster election.

Biden's stumbling approval ratings in polls are making a presidential run for him less likely than ever before.

Worse still, there really isn't a candidate strong enough in the Democratic camp. So, could Bloomberg make a difference?

If Bloomberg is the Democratic presidential nominee, it would well end up being a race involving two candidates of a similar ilk.

Ranked the eighth richest individual in the United States, Bloomberg has far deeper pockets than Trump and can come across to core Trump voters as far more successful and capable.

That is one of Trump's worst fears and ultimately the reason for the Bloomberg News ban.

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