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U.S.-born journalist and Iranian state television broadcaster Marzieh Hashemi detained by U.S. government, reportedly while filming a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement. (See PEN America’s statement.) Facebook removes hundreds of pages and accounts on its Facebook and Instagram platforms that have been ‘linked’ to employees of Sputnik, a Russian state-run news site. Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has admitted to paying outside company to rig online polls in favor of Donald Trump leading up to the 2016 election. Government shutdown enters its 28th day amid concerns of its effect on the transparency of various agencies. -Nora Benavidez, Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs

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


Iran Says U.S. Has Detained ‘Press TV’ Journalist and Calls for Her Release
Iran’s foreign ministry is calling for the immediate release of Marzieh Hashemi, an American-born journalist who works for an Iranian state broadcaster and who is believed to have been detained in the U.S.

Facebook Removes Hundreds of Fake Pages, Accounts ‘Linked’ to Russia’s Sputnik
Facebook has removed hundreds of pages, groups, and accounts on its Facebook and Instagram platforms that the U.S. company says were part of two online disinformation operations targeting users across the former Soviet space.

Ex-Trump Lawyer: Rigging Polls ‘Was at the Direction of’ Trump
Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for U.S. President Trump, said he paid a firm to manipulate online polling data “at the direction of and for the sole benefit of” Trump. Trump frequently referred to his polling numbers to help fuel his candidacy.

ICE, Other Agencies, See Transparency Take Major Hit during Government Shutdown
A number of government agencies, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection agencies (CBP), have seen their media offices for the most part go quiet since the shutdown began at the stroke of midnight on December 22, because of a lack of resources.


Young Russian Musicians Struggle Under Government Scrutiny
At the heart of the generational clash is the digital connectivity of Russian youth versus the largely offline existence of their elders, who spent their formative years in the Soviet Union, where the government controlled everything from the way young people dressed to the kind of music they listened to.
*Read more about how Russia is silencing its young musicians here

Media Council Writes to New York Times, Demands Action on Published Terror Images
The Media Council of Kenya has written to the New York Times Bureau Chief in Nairobi demanding an apology on the publication’s usage of images of those who died at the DusitD2 Hotel attack.

Ram Rahim Singh: India Guru Jailed for Life over Journalist’s Murder
An Indian guru has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a journalist who exposed sexual abuse of women at his sect.

Turkey Deports Dutch Journalist on Suspicion of ‘Links to Terrorism’
A journalist working for the largest Dutch financial newspaper has been deported from Turkey on suspicion of “links to terrorism,” the latest to be ousted from the country accused of stifling press freedom.

Where the Threat to Free Speech Really Lies
“Freedom of expression in the heart of British democracy is under threat. And the question that faces the British people is how we censor political expression that seeks to deny other people that same right to political expression.”

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