CNN awaits judge’s decision on White House ban on reporter

File photo taken on November 7, 2018 shows US President Donald Trump (R) getting into a heated exchange with CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (C) as NBC correspondent Peter Alexander (L) looks on during a post-election press conference in the East Room of the White House. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2018
0

CNN awaits judge’s decision on White House ban on reporter

WASHINGTON: A US federal judge was poised to rule Thursday on a lawsuit brought by CNN with broad backing from other US media to compel the White House to lift a ban imposed on a reporter after he engaged US President Donald Trump in a heated exchange at a news conference.
CNN lawyers argued in court Wednesday that the White House violated correspondent Jim Acosta’s First Amendment right to free speech in revoking his credentials, and asked the court to order that they be reinstated.
The US Justice Department’s lawyer, James Burnham, countered that Acosta had “disrupted” last week’s news conference. Burnham insisted “there is no First Amendment right to access the White House.”
Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, said he would hand down a decision at 3:00 p.m. (1500) GMT.
Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, angered Trump when he persisted in questioning the president at a November 7 news conference, ignoring demands he yield the microphone.
From the podium, Trump called Acosta — a frequent target of his ire — a “rude, terrible person.”
Hours later the White House revoked Acosta’s security pass, initially accusing him of “placing his hands” on a female press aide who tried to take the microphone away.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a video to support the claim, but analysts said the footage was sped up to make it appear Acosta had manhandled the aide.
CNN’s suit, which the White House dismissed as “grandstanding,” drew support from major US news organizations, including Fox News, the Rupert Murdoch-owned television news network known for its friendly coverage of Trump and other conservatives.
In a “friend of court” brief, the White House Correspondents Association urged the court to find in favor of CNN, warning that to do otherwise would set a dangerous legal precedent.
“The White House is the People’s House, and the First Amendment does not permit the President to pick and choose which journalist do — and do not — cover him there.”
Others backing the CNN arguments in court included the Associated Press, Bloomberg, First Look Media Works, Gannett, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, NBC News, The New York Times, Politico, Press Freedom Defense Fund, EW Scripps Company, USA Today and The Washington Post.


Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

Updated 11 December 2018
0

Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

  • Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive
  • Pakistan banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots

WASHINGTON: When Canadian columnist Anthony Furey received an email said to be from Twitter’s legal team telling him he may have broken a slew of Pakistani laws, his first instinct was to dismiss it as spam.
But after Googling the relevant sections of Pakistan’s penal code, the Toronto Sun op-ed editor was startled to learn he stood accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad — a crime punishable by death in the Islamic republic — and Twitter later confirmed the correspondence was genuine.
His perceived offense was to post cartoons of the prophet several years ago.
Furey and two prominent critics of extremism in Islam say they are “shocked” to have received notices by the social media giant this past week over alleged violations of Islamabad’s laws, despite having no apparent connection to the South Asian country.
They say the notices amount to an effort to stifle their voices — a charge Twitter denies, arguing the notices came about as a result of “valid requests from an authorized entity,” understood to mean Pakistan, helped users “to take measures to protect their interests,” and the process is not unique to any one country.
But Furey is the third prominent user in the space of days to publicly complain about receiving a message linked to Pakistan.
The other two are Saudi-Canadian activist Ensaf Haidar and Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, a progressive Muslim scholar from Australia who was born in Iran.
Both are outspoken critics of religious extremism and have accused the social media giant of helping to silence progressive ideas within Islam.
Furey, who detailed his experience in a column for his newspaper on Saturday, told AFP: “I’m somewhat alarmed that Twitter would even allow a country to make a complaint like this, as it almost validates their absurd blasphemy laws.”
The tweet in question was a collage of cartoons of Mohammad that he posted four years ago.
“Looking back, I remember I did it right after there had been an Daesh-inspired attack in retaliation over the cartoons,” Furey wrote in his column, adding he had not posted similar material before or since.
Tawhidi meanwhile was sent a similar notice flagging a tweet that called on Australian police to investigate extremism in mosques following a deadly knife attack in Melbourne in November.
The scholar attached the legal notice sent to him by Twitter informing him of possible violations of Pakistani law, and tweeted: “I am not from Pakistan nor am I a Pakistani citizen.
“Pakistan has no authority over what I say. Get out of here.”
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Twitter told AFP: “In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a valid requests from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”
The spokesperson added: “We notify users so that they have the opportunity to review the legal request, and the option to take measures to protect their interests.”
Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive.
It banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots.
Furey told AFP that although he was taken aback by the notice, “I’m at least glad they brought it to my attention that the Pakistan government has their eye on me.”
But he added: “One troubling consequence to all of this is that even people in countries without these blasphemy laws may start to self-censor for fear of the reach foreign governments will have over them in the online world.”