Breaking: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony this week on Trump campaign ties to Russia will be in a public Senate Intelligence Committee session. CNN reportedly drops Reza Aslan’s show Believer after he criticizes President Trump on Twitter; see PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel’s statement on Aslan, who advises our series The M-Word focusing on Muslims in America, and the broader issues this raises. New journalistic investigations probe how fraudulent news works its way through the information ecosystem to have an impact in real life. Corporate sponsors pull support for New York’s Public Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” starring a Trump look-alike. And Russian security forces detain the leader of anti-Kremlin protesters as he leaves home for a central Moscow rally.-Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer


DARE: Daily Alert on Rights and Expression

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


Senate Democrats Call for Sessions’s Russia Testimony to Be Public
A day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would testify this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic senators urged the panel to question him about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in a public hearing, rather than behind closed doors. Mr. Sessions’s appearance before the committee is expected to offer critical details as lawmakers debate whether Mr. Trump’s reported comments to Mr. Comey — that Mr. Trump hoped, in reference to the Flynn investigation, that Mr. Comey could “let this go” — amount to obstruction of justice.

CNN cancels Reza Aslan’s show “Believer” after profane anti-Trump tweets
CNN’s decision came about a week after it split with Kathy Griffin, the comedian who has co-hosted the network’s New Year’s Eve show for the past decade. Griffin was shown in photos holding up a bloodied head depicting the president. First she defended it as artistic, then she issued an apology. CNN fired her the next day. Aslan has been a virulent critic of Trump for some time, but this particular tweet crossed a line in the minds of some media critics. Prominent conservatives weighed in and said they wanted Aslan to be fired.

Et Tu, Delta? Shakespeare in the Park Sponsors Withdraw From Trump-Like ‘Julius Caesar’
New York’s Public Theater lost financial support from two high-profile corporate donors, Delta Air Lines and Bank of America, on Sunday amid intense criticism of its production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” which depicts the assassination of a Trump-like Roman ruler. In a statement, the company said: ”As an institution that believes in free speech for the arts as well as the media, we support the right of the Public Theater to stage the production as they chose.”

A Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theorist, a False Tweet and a Runaway Story
Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump activist notorious for his amateur sleuthing into red herrings like the “Pizzagate” hoax and a conspiracy theory involving the murder of a Democratic aide, wrote on May 17 that Mr. Comey had “said under oath that Trump did not ask him to halt any investigation.” It mattered little that Mr. Comey had said no such thing. The tweet quickly ricocheted through the ecosystem of fake news and disinformation on the far right, where Trump partisans like Mr. Posobiec have intensified their efforts to sow doubt about the legitimacy of expanding investigations into Trump associates’ ties to Russia.

‘Anti-Sharia’ Marchers Met With Counter-Protests Around The Country
Protesters who gathered on Saturday to denounce Islamic law were met across the country with equally sized or larger counter-protests. Organizers called the “March Against Sharia” rallies to protest what they say is the threat to U.S. society posed by the set of traditional Muslim practices, which they say includes oppression of women, honor killings, homophobic violence, female genital mutilation and other abuses. But reports and pictures show large counter-protests around the country, with activists accusing the “anti-sharia” marchers of racism and Islamophobia.


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny ‘detained’ ahead of anti-Kremlin protests
Russian authorities said that Navalny could face 15 days in prison for failing to follow police orders and violating public order after he called supporters to hold unauthorized protests on Moscow’s main avenue. Thousands of young Russians are marking Monday’s patriotic Russia Day holiday by rallying against government corruption and exerting pressure on President Vladimir Putin. Russia Day commemorates the establishment of the Russian sovereign state in 1990, a year prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Making Google the Censor
Prime Minister Theresa May’s political fortunes may be waning in Britain, but her push to make internet companies police their users’ speech is alive and well. Ms. May called platforms like Google and Facebook breeding grounds for terrorism. The fears and frustrations behind these proposals are understandable. But making private companies curtail user expression in important public forums is dangerous. Users’ speech and privacy rights will suffer if platforms must vet every word they post.

Africa’s North Korea: Reporting From Eritrea, the Land of No Journalists
Isaias Afwerki, the president of Eritrea announced that all independent media organizations were to cease activity. Private presses were shuttered and broadcasters closed down; journalists were rounded up and put in prison. In 1996, the government passed a law that required all journalists and publications to be licensed by the administration and for publications to be submitted for government approval before dissemination. This climate has led to the country being dubbed Africa’s North Korea.

Egypt Bans Scores of News Websites in Growing Censorship Crackdown
Journalists see the campaign against them as a step toward banning all but the most state-aligned media, effectively reversing the private media boom that flourished in the final decade of former president Hosni Mubarak’s rule. The spike in censorship has come as a surprise, even to journalists long-accustomed to reporting within strict red lines. Journalists believe the wave of censorship is meant to neutralize debate on an issue that opposition figures say has already eroded some of Sisi’s support among voters who consider ceding sovereign territory unacceptable.

Chinese Censors Have New Target: Celebrity News
A large number of Chinese “celebrity news” blogs have disappeared in recent days after coming under the scrutiny of China’s cyberspace regulators. Their absence comes amid a broader tightening of online and media controls ahead of a once-in-every-five-years meeting of top Communist Party leaders. The Beijing bureau of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top online regulator, called on the companies to “actively promote socialist core values” and create a “healthy, uplifting environment for mainstream opinion” by combating vulgar and sensationalist coverage of celebrity scandals and lifestyles.

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