Trump undermines democracy with media attacks, says Cameron
David Cameron has accused Donald Trump of undermining democracy by attacking the media, saying the true threat posed by fake news lay with Vladimir Putin, his twitter bots and Russian efforts to use corruption as a weapon of foreign policy.
The former British prime minister also accused Russia of winning the right to stage the 2018 Fifa World Cup via corruption.
Giving his first British public lecture since his resignation in the wake of the Brexit referendum defeat in 2016, Cameron also defended multilateral institutions such as the European Union, warning isolationism driven by anti-globalisation endangered the world’s security.
Giving a lecture in London to Transparency International, he said: “Just as with all our biggest challenges – on trade, on terrorism, on climate change, on global poverty – we need to work with other nations if we want change. We cannot do this alone.”
Cameron warned that Trump’s attacks on news organisations such as CNN and the BBC were not just tactically wrong but dangerous. He accused the US president of “an attempt to question the whole legitimacy of organisations that have an important role in our democracy”.
Cameron said: “Let me put it like this: President Trump, ‘fake news’ is not broadcasters criticising you, it’s Russian bots and trolls targeting your democracy pumping out untrue stories day after day, night after night.
“When you misappropriate the term ‘fake news’, you are deflecting attention from real abuses. Ignoring what’s happening on social media is facilitating a form of corruption that is undermining democracy.”
He then directly challenged the way in which Russia won the right to stage the 2018 World Cup describing the event as a fiasco.
“President Putin actually boycotted the whole thing because he said it was riddled with corruption,” Cameron said. “He was right – it was.”
Adding he was putting it as diplomatically as he could, he said: “I am sure he wasn’t completely surprised when Russia actually won the bid. You couldn’t make it up. In the years since, 10 of the 22 members of that Fifa executive committee were indicted or punished.”
Cameron made the global fight against corruption one of the themes of his premiership, and it was the major issue of his chairmanship of the G8 in 2015. He also staged a corruption summit in 2016 at which world leaders made a series of pledges to clamp down on money laundering and kleptocracy.
In his lecture he defended his record as premier, saying he persuaded British Overseas Territories, often seen as tax havens, to set up central registers of beneficial ownership that were open to law enforcement agencies. In the UK he introduced a public register on beneficial ownership. But legislation promised by Cameron in 2015 on a public register of foreign companies owning property in the UK or seeking public sector contracts has been delayed, with the government promising this week to introduce a draft law in this parliamentary session.
Overall, No 10 has not given the impression of wanting to give global leadership on the issue and Cameron pointedly referred to his corruption summit as the high water mark of UK government action.
He warned that the fight against corruption needed international cooperation and institutions to succeed.