Donald Trump appeared to complain, or at least joke, about the free press in front of Kim Jong Un during their summit in Singapore.
As cameras clicked and reporters yelled out questions while the two leaders sat together ahead of one of their meetings, Trump remarked to the North Korean leader, “The press, they never stop.”
According to CNN’s Jim Acosta, Trump, who has had a fractious relationship with the press and frequently criticizes them even on trips abroad, said to Kim, “I’ll tell you when they’re out.”
There is no independent media in North Korea whatsoever, with the government tightly controlling all information that people have access to via state media.
In Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2018, North Korea was ranked 180th out of 180 countries, with the report noting that North Koreans could still be sent to prison camps for “viewing, reading or listening to content provided by a media outlet based outside the country.”
Meanwhile the US press corps had very limited access in Singapore, with the Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg kept out of the photo opportunity at the start of Kim and Trump’s first one-on-one meeting.
Lauren Easton, the Associated Press’s director of media relations, said the news agency was “troubled” by attempts to curb media access at the summit.
Margaret Talev, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said complaints had been raised with the White House, and the lack of access was reflected in the coverage, as reporters struggled to determine what exactly Kim or Trump had said.
While camera crews from Singaporean TV were able to film the start of the lunch meeting between Trump and Kim, no other independent journalists were allowed inside.
Trump did, however, ask the photographers if they were “getting a good picture, everybody, so we look nice and handsome and thin and perfect?”