Justice Department to drop felony charges against 129 protesters swept up in mass inauguration day arrests to focus on 59 other defendants. Trump administration appointee as public face of AmeriCorps and other federal volunteer service programs resigns after CNN reveals his bigoted radio screeds. New assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department figures in contentious campus speech issues. For a day, New York Times turns its opinion page over exclusively to letters from Trump supporters. -Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer

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


Justice Department Drops Felony Charges Against 129 Trump Inauguration Defendants
The move came after a jury last month found all six defendants in the first felony trial not guilty. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which handles federal and local cases and is part of the Justice Department, said it would focus on a “core group” of 59 defendants it thinks were most responsible for destruction.

Trump appointee resigns as public face of agency that runs AmeriCorps after review of racist, sexist, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT comments
Carl Higbie has resigned as chief of external affairs for the federal government’s volunteer service organization. Higbie, a former Navy SEAL and conservative media personality, was a surrogate for Trump during the 2016 campaign, appearing on cable news and serving as the spokesman for the Trump-aligned Great America PAC.

An Advocate for Israel Draws Fire as He Nears Confirmation to Civil Rights Post
Kenneth Marcus, Trump’s nominee for the assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department, has lobbied for institutions and the Education Department to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that Jewish activists embrace but that many Palestinian rights groups say would render criticism of Israel as hate speech.

New York Times crowdsources the case for Trump
The Times editorial page took a break from its self-assigned beat of telling truths: “In the spirit of open debate, and in hopes of helping readers who agree with us better understand the views of those who don’t, we wanted to let Mr. Trump’s supporters make their best case for him as the first year of his presidency approaches its close.”


Social media companies accelerate removals of online hate speech -EU
The European Union has piled pressure on social media firms to increase their efforts to fight the proliferation of extremist content and hate speech on their platforms. “In case of doubt,” said EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, “it should remain online because freedom of expression is (in a) privileged position.”

Lebanese journalist convicted of “insulting army”
Hanin Ghaddar was convicted by a military court for “attacking the Lebanese army.” Local media said the comments in question concerned the army “involving itself in sectarian conflicts.” Commentators took to Twitter to express solidarity with Ms. Ghaddar, and to voice concern over the decline of freedom of expression in Lebanon.

China Rights Lawyer Detained After Posting Pro-Democracy Appeal
On Wednesday, Yu Wensheng posted an appeal to change China’s Constitution, suggesting that there might be a more democratic way to elect the country’s leader. By Friday morning, he was in police custody. In his “open letter,” Mr. Yu said the title of president—one of many that Mr. Xi holds—had “no electoral significance” in China.

Merera Gudina, Ethiopia opposition leader, freed
The leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress has been in prison since December 2016 and was facing charges, including association with terrorist groups. Critics and human rights groups have accused the Ethiopian government in the past of labelling its opponents, and some journalists, as terrorists.

Turkey: Mesale Tolu’s husband, Suat Corlu, arrested again, others detained
Suat Corlu, who works as a journalist in Istanbul and is a board member of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed, has been detained again by Turkish police. Like his wife Mesale Tolu, a German journalist with Turkish roots who was freed from prison last month, Corlu has been accused of being a member of a terrorist organization.

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