President Donald Trump’s attacks on the American news media have not only chilled U.S. citizens faith in reporting in the country he leads but has served as a roadmap for tyrants and dictators around the globe to stifle a vigorous free press and put journalists lives in danger, said New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger at a Brown University speech tonight.

Sulzberger, a Brown alum and former Providence Journal reporter, said Trump’s Tweeter rants about the media and his labeling of new accounts he doesn’t agree with as “fake news” has provided the model for autocrats in nations from Hungary to Venezuela.

“President Trump is no longer content to delegitimize accurate reporting as ‘fake news’, said Sulzberger. “Now, he has taken to demonizing reporters themselves, calling them “the true enemy of the people, ‘ and even accusing them of treason. With these phrases, he has not just inspired autocratic rulers around the world, he has borrowed from them.”

The term “enemy of the people,” Sulzberger said, has a “particularly brutal history. It was used to justify mass executions during the French Revolution and the Third Reich. And it was used by Lenin and Stalin to justify the systematic murder of Soviet dissidents.”

“The treason charge is perhaps the most serious a commander-in-chief can make,” he said. “By threatening to prosecute journalists for invented crimes against their country, President Trump gives repressive leaders implicit license to do the same.”

Quoting the late Republican Sen. John McCain, Sulzberger repeated McCain’s warning that, “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do it shut down the press.”

Sulzberger noted that Trump’s usual targets are “independent news organizations with a deep commitment to reporting fairly and accurately.”

The publisher said that criticism of the Times or other news organizations is “fair game.”

Sometimes, he said, mistakes are made because journalism is a “human enterprise.”

“But we also try to own our mistakes, to correct them, and to rededicate ourselves every day to the highest standards of journalism,’ he said. “But when the president decries “fake news” he’s not interested in actual mistakes. He’s…dismissing factual and fair reporting as politically motivated fabrications.”

Trump has also abdicated the American government’s traditional support for the First Amendment rights of U.S. journalists abroad. He shared a story that he said he has never publicly referred to before.

Two years ago, Sulzberger said, the Times received a call from a U.S. government official warning the newspaper’s brass of the imminent arrest of a NY Times reporter based in Egypt. His name is Declan Walsh.

“Though the news was alarming, the call was actually fairly standard. Over the years we’ve received countless such warnings from American diplomats, military leaders and national security officials. But this particular call took a surprising and distressing turn. We learned the official was passing along this warning without the knowledge or permission of the Trump Administration.

“Rather than trying to stop the Egyptian government or assist the reporter, the official believed the Trump Administration intended to sit on the information and let the arrest be carried out. The official feared being punished for even alerting us to the danger.”

Times top leaders felt they were unable to count on their own government to prevent the arrest or help free the reporter if he was imprisoned. So they turned to Walsh’s native country, Ireland, for aid.

“Within an hour, Irish diplomats traveled to (Walsh’s) house and safely escorted him to the airport before Egyptian forces could detain him,” said Sulzberger.

Trump’s administration has “retreated from our country’s historical role as a defender of the free press. Seeing that, other countries are targeting journalists with a growing sense of impunity,” said Sulzberger.

“Let me start by stating the obvious: the media isn’t perfect. We make mistakes. We have blind spots. We  sometimes drive  people crazy,” he said. “But the free press is foundational to a healthy democracy and arguably the most important we have as citizens. It empowers the public by providing the information we need to elect leaders, and the continuing oversight to keep them honest. It bears witness to our moments of tragedy and triumph and provides the shared baseline of common facts and information that bind communities together. It gives voice to the disadvantaged and doggedly pursues truth to expose wrongdoing and drive change.”

In a wide-ranging address and question-and answer session afterwards, the young publisher described how the Times has navigated the disruption of the advertising-based print business model that fueled journalism for decades before it fell to the challenge of the Internet and a young generation of news consumers.

Under his leadership, the Times has evolved into a news outlet that has evolved into the digital age. The newspaper now has millions of online subscribers around the world and has aggressively leveraged multiple platforms to get its journalism to news consumers. It’s been a mélange of focusing on the traditional strength of the print editions –adherence to accurate and informed journalism from around the world. And grasping the opportunities of reinventing print reporting to such platform as the Internet and television.

While the president calls the newspaper, the “failing’ New York Times, the facts is that the changes that have been made at the Times have led to robust financial and journalistic success. The Times has 1,600 journalists reporting from more than 160 countries and has a strong presence in the U.S., especially in its renowned Washington, D.C. bureau.

In answer to an audience question, Sulzberger lamented the cutbacks at local newspapers around the country, including the Providence Journal, where he covered the seacoast community of Narragansett from the newspaper’s now-shuttered South County bureau. The Journal once had 11 news bureaus in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts devoted to covering local news. There are none left; all fell  victim to financial cutbacks.

“These entry-level jobs in journalism don’t exist,” said Sulzberger. He said he doesn’t have a silver bullet for financing local journalism, but cited the Boston Globe, which recently opened a Rhode Island news operation of doing a good job investing in local news.

Sulzberger graduated in 2003 with a degree in political science. He began his journalism career at the  covering news in the South County town of Narragansett. He moved on to the Portland Oregonian before becoming a reporter at the Times. He’s the sixth generation of his family to lead the Times.

At the beginning of his talk, he recognized mentors from his days in Providence and at Brown, particularly Tracy Breton, a former Providence Journal reporter who taught Sulzberger at Brown and still teaches journalism at the university, and Carol Young, a former Providence Journal editor who was known as a great mentor of young journalists, including Sulzberger.

Sulzberger also singled out CJ Chivers, a Pulitzer-winning Times reporter and celebrated war correspondent, who was in the audience with his spouse, Suzanne Keating, who is also a former Journal reporter. The couple live in South Kingstown.

Sulzberger’s address was part of Brown’s Stephen A. Ogden Memorial  lecture series. Ogden was a member of the university’s class of 1960 who died shortly after college. Sulzberger was introduced by Brown President Christina Paxson, who also moderated the Q&A session at Solomon Hall on campus.

Sulzberger ended with a plea to major institutions and citizens to stand up for a free press. “Business, nonprofit and academic communities, all of which rely on the free and reliable flow of information, have a responsibility.”

“This is particularly true of tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple. Their track record of standing up to governments abroad is spotty at best; they’ve too often turned a blind eye to disinformation, and at times, permitted the suppression of real journalism,” said Sulzberger.

“News organizations must hold fast to the values of great journalism—fairness, accuracy, independence –while opening ourselves so the public can better understand our work and its role in our society,” Sulzberger said. “We cannot allow ourselves to be baited or applauded into becoming anyone’s opposition cheerleader. Our loyalty must be to the facts, not to any party or any leader, and we must continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, without fear or favor.”