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The first six people to face trial in Inauguration Day protests are acquitted. A federal judge rejects a Russian internet mogul’s bid to force BuzzFeed to reveal its sources for the dossier it published on President Trump’s Russia connections. The Associated Press finds that the Fancy Bear hackers linked to Russian government intervention in the U.S. presidential election targeted at least 200 journalists, publishers, and bloggers, including 50 from The New York Times. The FCC fines Sinclair Broadcast Group $13.4 million for airing paid coverage of a cancer foundation in the guise of news reports, leveling the largest such penalty for violating requirements for transparency about sponsorship as the conservative broadcaster seeks approval for a major merger that would give it wide penetration in U.S. media markets. Tennesseans won’t be able to bring protest signs into the state legislature’s new building. -Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer

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


J20 protest trial latest: Anti-Trump activists found not guilty and avoid lengthy prison sentences
Six defendants facing decades in prison for protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration have been found not guilty, in a trial that raised serious questions about First Amendment rights in the age of Trump. The defendants were the first of nearly 200 people due to stand trial for their involvement in the January 20 protests.

Court rejects attempt to expose BuzzFeed’s source for dossier
A federal magistrate judge in Florida has turned down a bid by a Russian internet mogul Aleksej Gubarev to force BuzzFeed to detail how it obtained the dossier it published in January containing a variety of salacious claims about President Donald Trump’s connections to Russia.

FCC Fines Sinclair Broadcast Group $13.4 Million for Running Sponsored Content as News
The FCC said that the programming was broadcast more than 1,700 times, “either as stories resembling independently generated news coverage that aired during the local news, or as longer-form stories aired as 30-minute television programs.”

Tennessee lawmakers to allow guns but prohibit ‘hand-carried signs’ in new building
The policy expressly prohibits “hand-carried signs and signs on hand sticks” because they “represent a serious safety hazard.” The decision has been described as “an attempt in part to limit dissent and to avoid embarrassment to lawmakers,” but it is unclear if, and how strictly, it will be enforced.


Russian hackers targeted more than 200 journalists globally
Journalists, publishers, and bloggers were targeted as early as mid-2014 and as recently as a few months ago, including New York Times reporters, foreign correspondents in Moscow, Russian reporters for independent news outlets, and prominent media figures in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltic states, or Washington.

Pakistan closes 27 NGOs in what activists see as widening crackdown
The move comes after an estimated 14 activists were interrogated and in some cases disappeared this year, including journalists, political workers, and social media activists. Human rights campaigners say the crackdown on NGOs is part of a wider campaign to quell free speech.

Myanmar Human Rights Commission Urges Government to Grant Access to Detained Journalists
Authorities arrested Thet Oo Maung, also known as Wa Lone, and Kyaw Soe Oo on December 12 for allegedly possessing illegal government documents about security forces in northern Rakhine state. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.

Drone-flying Vietnamese journalist sentenced to 7 years
Nguyen Van Hoa had been covering environmental protests following an unprecedented toxic spill and massive fish kill in April 2016 caused by the Taiwanese-owned Formosa Plastics Group. Police informed his family that Hoa had been arrested for “abusing democratic freedoms.”

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