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Trump takes to Twitter to taunt Iran over swelling popular protests as Iran’s leader blames “enemies” for fomenting the unrest. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) releases new year’s message stressing imperative to defend and buttress the First Amendment. NFL kneeling protests diminish at year-end, reflecting what commentators judge an ambiguous success. Trump Administration eyes new 30% tax on newsprint. -Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director

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


GOP Senator Defends First Amendment in New Year’s Day Video
“The only way the republic can work is if we come together and we defend each other’s rights to say things that we differ about,” Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said in the video. “We defend each other’s rights to publish journalism and pieces and things that we then want to argue about.”

NFL National Anthem Protests Sidelined by Ambiguity
At season’s end, the top sports story of 2017 already feels like something that has come and gone. What began as a debate over the state of the oppression of people of color became knotted into an argument about patriotism and the military. Some cheered the First Amendment but jeered when others exercised those rights.

Newspapers’ Bad News in U.S. Gets Worse, Courtesy of Trade Spat
The Department of Commerce will announce in January whether it will impose a 30% tax on Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood paper, used in everything from book publishing to newsprint. “It could have a catastrophic impact on community journalism,” said Matt Davison, publisher and president of the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Efforts Grow to Help Students Evaluate What They See Online
Alarmed by the proliferation of false content online, state lawmakers are pushing schools to put more emphasis on teaching students how to tell fact from fiction. Several states have introduced or passed bills calling on public school systems to do more to teach media literacy skills that they say are critical to democracy.


Iran’s Supreme Leader Blames ‘Enemies’ for Deadly Protests
As of Tuesday morning, the death toll from the protests across the country and the ensuing crackdown by the government and security services was at least 21. About 450 people had been taken into custody in the capital, Tehran, alone and arrests have also been reported elsewhere.

Germany Starts Enforcing Hate Speech Law
The law is the most extreme example of efforts by governments and regulators to rein in social media firms, which have come under greater scrutiny this year as information about how they are used to spread propaganda has come to light. Sites that do not remove “obviously illegal” posts could face fines of up to €50m.

Chinese University Leader Vows to ‘Lead by Example’ and Respect Others’ Views as He Takes Charge of Tense Campus
Newly-appointed head of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Rocky Tuan Sung-chi Tuan has pledged to defend academic freedom. He also said he saw no problem with students discussing Hong Kong independence so long as the matter was addressed peacefully, rationally, lawfully, and respectful of different opinions.

Malaysian Journalist Detained in Myanmar Arrives Safely in Singapore
Two journalists employed by Turkish Radio and Television were sentenced to two months imprisonment. They were detained by Myanmar authorities for allegedly video recording, using a drone without prior authorisation. It was reported that the charges were dropped because they did not mean to endanger national security.

China to Try Tibetan Education Advocate Detained for 2 Years
Chinese officials are planning to put Tashi Wangchuk, who advocates broader Tibetan language education, on trial next week for “inciting separatism,” a charge that could result in a 15-year prison sentence. The police took him from his home two months after he appeared in a Times video and article about Tibetan language education.

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