(CNN)It's no surprise that a politician's worst enemy is a vibrant news media. Journalists who stick their noses into the affairs of the powerful and expose their failures are a threat. It's therefore no great shock that even many leaders of democratic countries are happier when the press is weakened.
Coronavirus has created the perfect conditions for a full-scale war on truth. Some politicians are siding with lies
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a golden window to undermine confidence in the media and, in some cases, for world leaders to launch outright assaults on some of the most respected and important journalistic institutions in their countries.
Earlier this week, the Polish parliament passed a bill that could mean curtains for the country's largest independent news channel. TVN24, a broadcaster that is frequently critical of the Polish governing party, is in part owned by the American media group Discovery. Should this new bill become law, non-EU entities will be prohibited from being majority shareholders in Polish media companies, meaning Discovery would have to sell its majority stake.
Also this week, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz put forward his plan that would effectively pull funding from the country's oldest newspaper.
Wiener Zeitung is a state-owned newspaper and is funded by a model that requires the government to advertise jobs and make other formal announcements in its pages. Yet the paper has an independent editorial policy and has often criticized Kurz and his administration. Under the Chancellor's plans, that funding would be gone and the paper's main source of income taken away.
What's shocking about these two incidents is that they are happening in democratic Western nations. While journalists elsewhere face risk of prosecution or even death threats, the fact this is happening in Europe and is part of a broader trend is seriously concerning for the media and citizens alike.
What has this got to do with coronavirus? Short answer: timing.
"In times of crisis trust in government goes up because people just want somebody to fix things, so you see people rally around the flag," says Ben Page, chief executive of polling firm Ipsos MORI.
Page says these spikes in support provide a window of opportunity that "distracts from what you are doing elsewhere." And if you are a politician seeking to capitalize on this, whacking and weakening the press is a relatively easy proposition. "I'm afraid journalism is one of the least-trusted professions all over the world," he adds.
The reasons for public distrust in journalism are varied.
"One of our biggest problems as professional journalists is that all over the world, we have been accused as being part of the system and establishment," says Pierre Haski, president of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). "So as populist movements grow and rise up against the establishment, they rise up against us."
Haski thinks that it isn't just populist movements that present a danger, but also mainstream politicians who are losing voters to more extreme opposition.