The central role of the media and journalism is on full display during fired FBI director Comey’s riveting Congressional testimony. So is the state of truth, as “lies” and who told them become the central theme and the takeaway quote “Lordy, I hope there are tapes” feels like a plea for definitive evidence. And then there is the parsing of the meaning of the word “hope” when said by the president to the director of the FBI. -Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer


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The most pressing threats and notable goings-on in free expression today


A Leaker’s Admission: How the Media Covered, and Factored Into, Comey’s Testimony
President Trump, Russia, White House meetings and questions of executive power were all front and center at James B. Comey’s hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. But another theme also emerged: Mr. Comey’s interplay with the news media. Mr. Comey testified that he hoped that the information would lead to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

‘Lordy, I Hope There Are Tapes’
When he told his top aides that the president had asked him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn’s lying about contact with Russian officials, the other FBI officials were “as shocked and troubled by it as I was,” Comey testified on Thursday. At that moment, Comey said, he was glad that he’d continued writing memos after every conversation he had with Trump. “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” he told the Senate.

The GOP has now decided Trump should be taken very literally
Defenses of President Trump by his allies often boil down to this: his words should be taken seriously, not literally, and the things he says (especially on Twitter) shouldn’t be over-analyzed. For a party that often decries how Trump’s words are taken too literally, it’s a strange turn of events for them to now focus so intently on his exact words.

The State Department makes a welcome return to raising human rights issues
Mr. Trump’s admiration for autocrats comes at a time when illiberalism seems to be on the march around the world. Yet this week, there was a glimmer of hope that the department, at least, has not thrown in the towel. The State Department issued a statement in defense of Taner Kilic, the chairman of Amnesty International Turkey, who was detained in recent days on suspicion of links with the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who lives in Pennsylvania.

Reuters’ new survey suggests that readers are getting (a bit) smarter about verifying breaking news
When it comes to news literacy, there’s a lot to be pessimistic about these days. Plenty of people are still reading and sharing fake new stories from dubious sources, while others are wary about real news stories from legitimate ones. At least in Reuters’ survey, however, people seemed more hesitant to rely on social media for news.


Georgian Furor Erupts Over Azerbaijani Dissident’s Reported Abduction Muxtarli, an Azerbaijani journalist who fled to Georgia with his family in 2015 after reportedly receiving threats while investigating alleged government corruption, never came home. That same day, Azerbaijani officials announced he was in pretrial detention in Baku after being charged with trespassing, smuggling, and resisting police after trying to cross the border without a passport.

Netizen Report: Gulf States Say “Pro-Qatar” Speech Now Constitutes Cybercrime
The decision of a growing number of Arab region states to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar will affect trade, travel and security alliances. It will also affect free speech. On the heels of their announcement, government officials in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia issued warnings that any citizen who expresses sympathy or support for Qatar via social media could face jail time or exorbitant fines.

Hate speech and #FakeNews: the crackdown continues
A year after the European Commission created an online “code of conduct” for the world’s four biggest Internet companies, online racist and xenophobic sentiment shows no sign of slowing down. Or at least that’s what the European body found a year after its adoption. Twitter in particular has failed to meet EC standards for removing hate speech online within 24 hours, taking action in less than 40 percent of incidences in which content has been flagged.

Gulf states use of Al Jazeera as tool in attack on Qatar puts staff at risk
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain blocked access to the Arabic satellite news channel and affiliated websites two weeks ago. Al Jazeera says it has also been enduring a string of cyberattacks. Former jailed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste says it’s a dangerous time for the network’s staff.

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