Journalists risk arrest under planned new law: UK campaign groups

The proposed bill has been designed to grant police greater powers to “respond more effectively to disruptive and dangerous protests.” (AFP/File)
The proposed bill has been designed to grant police greater powers to “respond more effectively to disruptive and dangerous protests.” (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 November 2022

Journalists risk arrest under planned new law: UK campaign groups

Journalists risk arrest under planned new law: UK campaign groups
  • Fears detention of reporters may ‘become commonplace’ if Public Order Bill passed
  • Recent arrests of 3 reporters at Just Stop Oil protests sparked intense debate

LONDON: 

A British journalists’ union and international rights campaigners have warned that the arrest of reporters could “become commonplace” in the UK if planned new legislation is made law.

The National Union of Journalists warned of the risks under the proposed terms of the Public Order Bill soon to be debated by the British parliament.

And NUJ officials have called on the UK government to review the legislation.

The concerns follow the arrest by Hertfordshire Police of three journalists covering recent Just Stop Oil protests. The reporters were held despite showing their press passes to police officers.

NUJ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: “We now call upon the National Police Chiefs’ Council to take immediate action to ensure this is prevented in future by all police forces who are overseeing the issues of public order associated with the Just Stop Oil protests being conducted on the M25 (motorway around London) and elsewhere.

“A central, key aspect of this has to be initial identification of the status of such news gatherers on the basis of their holding of the UK Press Card Authority press card, as recognized by the National Police Chiefs’ Council itself.”

Documentarian Rich Felgate, documentary photographer Tom Bowles, and Charlotte Lynch, a reporter for LBC, were arrested and detained for a few hours for filming the actions of the environmental activists on the motorway.

The incident sparked an intense debate within the media industry and beyond with several organizations, including law reform charity group Justice, and advocacy groups Amnesty International UK and Liberty, expressing concerns that the arrest of journalists could “become commonplace” if the Public Order Bill became law.

Tyrone Steele, a criminal lawyer at Justice, said: “These incidents clearly demonstrate the broad range of powers that already exist to police protests and show how they can be misused to stifle press freedom.

“These arrests foreshadow what might become commonplace if the Public Order Bill is passed. The bill creates a swathe of new criminal offences that are so broad they have the potential to capture a vast range of ordinary peaceful behaviour, including journalists covering protests.”

The proposed bill has been designed to grant police greater powers to “respond more effectively to disruptive and dangerous protests.”

Planned measures include the legal ability to jail activists for locking on (individuals attaching themselves to others, objects, or buildings), the extension of stop-and-search powers for police, and the banning of repeat offenders from attending protests.

The UK government claims that legislation is needed to put a stop to protests such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, which have repeatedly attempted to block road traffic.

Jun Pang, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said that in its attempt to introduce the bill the government was “trying to resurrect dangerous anti-protest proposals that the people and parliament have already loudly rejected just months ago.”

She added: “In recent years we’ve seen this government hand out sweeping powers to police which have been used to create a hostile environment for protesters and an increasingly dangerous working environment for journalists who face intimidation and arrest for simply doing their jobs. But this is not an isolated incident.

“The Public Order Bill will have a chilling effect on the right to protest, criminalizing anyone attempting to make themselves heard. The arrests we’ve seen this week show that we are heading in the wrong direction. In a functioning democracy, everyone must be able to stand up to power.”

A British Home Office spokesperson described the rights groups’ claims as “inflated and spurious.”

They said: “We want to protect press freedoms – and that’s what our Public Order Bill does. Previously protesters have tried shutting down printing presses, which is completely unacceptable, and our bill is designed to tackle this kind of disruption.”

Another upcoming piece of legislation, the National Security Bill, has also come in for criticism from press freedom advocacy groups.

In a submission to the government, the Guardian News and Media group recently warned that the proposed legislation threatened to “criminalize” some investigative journalism and “chill” whistleblowing.

And the NUJ, openDemocracy media platform, Reporters Without Borders freedom of information organization, and voice on free expression group Index on Censorship, have issued a joint statement slamming the National Security Bill.

It said: “Obtaining or sharing protected information, or information that is subject to any type of restriction of access, far beyond classified materials, greatly expands the state’s control over what journalists report on and significantly restricts the public’s right to know.”


Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack
  • Hacker group appears to have obtained staff personal information and government data

LONDON: Iran’s state media outlet Fars was hit by a cyberattack, the agency reported on Saturday.

The incident seems to be part of a larger operation aimed at discrediting the outlet, which is managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and exposing sensitive government information.

Fars said that its website had been disrupted late on Friday by a “complex hacking and cyberattack operation.”

“Removing possible bugs may cause problems for some agency services for a few days,” it said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.

“Cyberattacks against Fars news agency are carried out almost daily from different countries, including the occupied territories (Israel),” it added.

Fars has been heavily criticized for what critics say is its distorted reporting of recent protests that have swept Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini in mid-September.

The 22-year-old was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women and died while in the custody of the country’s morality police.

Hackers appear to have targeted the Twitter account of one of Fars’ managers and published a video on his profile.

The hacker group Black Reward on Friday claimed to have breached the agency’s database, and said it had obtained confidential bulletins and directives sent by the news agency to the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iran has been targeted by several anonymous hacker groups in recent years.

In October, Black Reward published documents from Iran’s nuclear program after the government ignored hackers’ demands to release all political prisoners and protesters arrested during recent demonstrations.

In past weeks, the group has also hacked the emails of state-affiliated press and TV managers and employees, obtaining personal information.


Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
Updated 26 November 2022

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
  • Video shows Palestinian Laila Odeh surrounded by people chanting anti-Arab slogans

LONDON: France24 correspondent Laila Odeh was harassed and verbally attacked by Israeli extremists as she spoke Arabic during live coverage from West Jerusalem on Wednesday.
A video of the incident shows the Palestinian journalist being heckled while covering the recent bomb attacks that took place in West Jerusalem.
The reporter was broadcasting live from Givat Shaul, one of the blast sites, when about 30 people tried to interrupt the live coverage.
In the video, Odeh is seen exchanging some words with a group of young people before they start surrounding the crew, stepping in front of the camera to block the broadcast.
“Excuse me, we’re live,” she said, to which one of the people replied: “I don’t care.” Odeh added: “You’re annoying me. Move away from here.”

 

 

Then the video shows her engaging in a verbal exchange before people around her started chanting anti-Arab slogans, forcing Odeh to cut the broadcast.
Some people in the group shouted “Death to Arabs”, “Arabs go to Russia” and “This is an Arab explosion.”
According to reports published by France24 following the incident, after the live broadcast people shouted to Odeh to “go to Gaza,” continued their insults and increased their aggressive behavior. France24 also reported that some people punched its cameraman and broke the camera tripod.
This is not the first time Odeh has been targeted by Israeli extremists. She was hit on the head and verbally abused while covering the Israeli nationalist Flag March in Jerusalem in May.
On Wednesday, Israeli police said bombs were detonated at two bus stops in West Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul and Ramot junctions, killing one Israeli and injuring 14 people, three of them seriously.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, Israeli authorities imposed a broadcast ban on the investigation.

 


Elon Musk says Twitter’s ban on Trump after Capitol attack was ‘grave mistake’

This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
Updated 26 November 2022

Elon Musk says Twitter’s ban on Trump after Capitol attack was ‘grave mistake’

This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
  • Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol

WASHINGTON: Twitter’s ban on then President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters was a “grave mistake” that had to be corrected, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday, although he also stated that incitement to violence would continue to be prohibited on Twitter.
“I’m fine with Trump not tweeting. The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service,” Musk said in a tweet. “Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America.”
Last week, Musk announced the reactivation of Trump’s account after a slim majority voted in a Twitter poll in favor of reinstating Trump, who said, however, that he had no interest in returning to Twitter. He added he would stick with his own social media site Truth Social, the app developed by Trump Media & Technology Group.
Republican Trump, who 10 days ago announced he was running for election again in 2024, was banned on Jan. 8, 2021, from Twitter under its previous owners.
At the time, Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol. The results of the November 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden were being certified by lawmakers when the Capitol was attacked after weeks of false claims by Trump that he had won.
Trump repeatedly used Twitter and other sites to falsely claim there had been widespread voter fraud, and had urged supporters to march on the Capitol in Washington to protest.
The attack is being investigated by US prosecutors and a congressional committee.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday on Musk’s statement that Trump did not violate any Twitter terms of service when his account was suspended.
Earlier on Friday, Musk tweeted that calling for violence or incitement to violence on Twitter would result in suspension, after saying on Thursday that Twitter would provide a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts that had not broken the law or engaged in spam.
Replying to a tweet, Musk said it was “very concerning” that Twitter had taken no action earlier to remove some accounts related to the far-left Antifa movement. In response to another tweet asking if Musk considered the statement “trans people deserve to die” as worthy of suspension from the platform, the billionaire said: “Absolutely.”
Change and chaos have marked Musk’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

 


More security for UK-based Iran International after threats

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats
Updated 25 November 2022

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats
  • Concrete barriers have been erected
  • Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that armed police vehicles had been deployed outside the TV studios

LONDON: The Iran International TV channel on Friday said that further security measures have been put in place around its London offices after threats from the regime in Tehran.
Concrete barriers have been erected similar to those at key government buildings and tourist spots in the British capital, to prevent vehicle attacks.
The barriers were “guaranteed to stop a 7.5 ton truck at 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour,” a spokesman for the Persian-language channel said.
Vehicle access in and around the site would also be controlled and checks carried out, he added.
The threats were an escalation of years of intimidation because of its broadcasting of protests in Iran, the spokesman told AFP.
“We’re the only channel running 24/7 coverage of the protests,” he said.
But he added: “We’re not the voice of the protests. We’re the only means that people in Iran can see them.”
The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, stressed that Iran International was not an opposition channel and its staff were not activists.
“We were set up as a service for people in Iran and the diaspora,” he said.
Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that armed police vehicles had been deployed outside the TV studios.
That followed “severe and credible” death threats against two of its UK-based journalists from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The UK government promptly hauled in Iran’s highest-ranking diplomat to the country for a dressing-down.
MI5, the UK domestic intelligence agency, has uncovered at least 10 plots by Iran to kill UK-based individuals deemed to be “enemies of the regime” so far this year, its boss said last week.
The channel employs about 100 staff in London, whose coverage of the protests largely involves sifting through and verifying social media content of the demonstrations.
Iranian staff were “more anxious” than panicked about the threats and more worried about the safety of their families back home, as well as the wider impact of the protests, said the spokesman for the channel.
“We all don’t know what the hell is going to happen. That’s stressful,” he said.


Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts
Updated 25 November 2022

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts
  • CEO apologized for the delay and said users verification coming back next week

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter’s billionaire owner Elon Musk announced Friday that the platform would be launching differently colored badges to distinguish between accounts.
“Sorry for the delay, we’re tentatively launching Verified on Friday next week,” he tweeted.
“Gold check for companies, grey check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates.”
In another tweet, Musk said that all verified individual accounts would have the same blue check, but some would eventually be able to display a “secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org(anization) if verified as such by that org(anization).”
The Tesla and SpaceX boss’ proposal for users to be able to pay to be “verified” and obtain a blue badge on their profiles has caused confusion since he acquired the social media giant last month.
Musk proposed a subscription fee of $8 a month to allow users to obtain the blue check — which was previously free but reserved for organizations and public figures in an attempt to avoid impersonation and misinformation.
The first rollout of Musk’s subscription plan in early November quickly went south, with many accounts paying for the blue check and then impersonating world leaders, celebrities or companies.
Responding to the backlash, Musk initially postponed the launch date to November 29, before delaying it once more. It now appears the feature will launch on December 2.
Musk has said that he wants to charge users for subscriptions to the social media platform to diversify its income stream. Twitter currently depends on advertising for 90 percent of its revenue.
Several major brands have withdrawn from advertising on the platform since Musk bought it, fearing that his promised relaxation of content moderation could open their companies up to being associated with objectionable content.
According to the NGO Media Matters, half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have announced that they are suspending or “have apparently suspended” their spending on the social network.