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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

After President Trump tweeted that CNN International "is still a major source of (Fake) news," Libyan media published an article questioning the authenticity of a major CNN report on the Libyan slave trade.

"It is reported in international political circles that many of the reports broadcast by the American channel often come as 'collusion' to serve political objectives in certain parts of the world, and here the possibility arises that the channel has published the report of slavery in Libya to raise a political objective that is still hidden," the report said, per a translation.

Why it matters: Trump's rhetoric on "fake news" is having direct and indirect effects around the world, and playing into the hands of those for whom distrust in the media is beneficial. There are many more such examples.

Myanmar
  • A state security officer, said: "There is no such thing as Rohingya...It is fake news."
  • Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has "unrolled a steady stream of denialism on the systematic evictions, rapes and killings of the Muslim Rohingya" in Myanmar, per Forbes.
Poland
  • During his first press conference outside the U.S., with Poland's President Andrzej Duda, Trump brought up dishonest coverage by the media, asking Duda if he "[has] that also." Duda later tweeted "Let's FIGHT FAKE NEWS," to which Trump responded "We will fight the #FakeNews with you!"
  • Freedom House shifted Poland's media freedom rating from "free" to "partly free" under Duda, due to his "intolerance toward critical reporting."
Kuwait
  • Discussing the situation in Qatar at a joint press conference in September, the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah, said "the media campaign...is totally unacceptable to the people because the media coming out of this country is against the people," according to the Washington Post. Trump responded: "I'm very, very honored and happy to know that you have problems with the media also."
Turkey
  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is notoriously hostile toward the free press, praised Trump in January for putting a CNN reporter "in his place" during a news conference in which Trump called CNN's Jim Acosta fake news.
Egypt
  • After a major attack on a mosque in Egypt that killed more than 300 people, Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Ahmed Abu Zeid, tweeted: "As usual, deplorable @CNN coverage of Sinai tragedy today. Anchor more interested in reporters access to Sinai than in those who lost their lives !!!"
  • Egypt is among the countries with the most journalists held in prison, and the regime is aggressive in controlling the narrative, particularly after attacks.
Syria
  • An Amnesty International report said around 13,000 prisoners were killed at a military prison between 2011 and 2015. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said: "You can forge anything nowadays...We are living in a fake news era."
Spain
  • Alfonso Dastis, Spain's Foreign Minister, said many photos and stories about police violence against voters during the Catalan referendum were fake: "If there was any use of force, it was a limited one...I am not saying that all are fake pictures, but some of them are and there have been a lot of alternative facts and fake news."
The Philippines
  • After a meeting with President Trump, President Rodrigo Duterte called reporters "spies," which received a laugh from Trump, according to the Washington Post.
Cambodia
  • According to Reuters, Prime Minister Hun Sen (who has been accused of human rights violations and corruption) compared himself to Trump in February, saying he too "understands that [journalists] are an anarchic group."
Back in the U.S...
  • U.S. senate candidate Roy Moore has claimed multiple accusations of sexual abuse against him are part of a conspiracy from the "fake" media.
  • Numerous reports from Alabama quote Trump voters who say they don't believe the national media, and think there's a conspiracy against Moore.

Go deeper

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

35 mins ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).

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