New Year’s Eve party in Times Square to cheer for press free­dom

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

NEW YORK, (Reuters) - Re­porters will be the guests of hon­our at the New Year’s Eve party in New York’s Times Square on Mon­day, in what or­ga­niz­ers said was a cel­e­bra­tion of press free­dom af­ter an un­usu­ally deadly year for jour­nal­ists at U.S. news out­lets.

Two at­tacks in par­tic­u­lar weighed on or­ga­niz­ers as they dis­cussed in au­tumn whom to give the honor of ini­ti­at­ing the cer­e­mo­nial ball drop just be­fore mid­night, ac­cord­ing to Tim Tompkins, pres­i­dent of the Times Square Al­liance.

One was the killing of Ja­mal Khashoggi, a Saudi colum­nist for the Washington Post and U.S. res­i­dent, in­side a Saudi Ara­bian con­sulate in Turkey. The other was the mass shoot­ing in June in the news­room of The Cap­i­tal, a news­pa­per in An­napo­lis, Mary­land, in which five em­ploy­ees were killed.

“Through­out the year it’s been a big is­sue,” Tompkins said in an in­ter­view. “Times Square it­self is the ul­ti­mate agora and pub­lic space,” not­ing that the area was named af­ter the New York Times, and that it was a Times pub­lisher, Adolf Ochs, who be­gan the tra­di­tion of the ball drop in 1907.

Joel Si­mon, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, said the Times Square Al­liance ap­proached his group be­cause of “the per­cep­tion that the jour­nal­ism and jour­nal­ists in par­tic­u­lar are un­der threat and their role is be­ing ques­tioned.”

Si­mon, who said he usu­ally spends New Year’s Eve play­ing Scrab­ble with his wife in New Hamp­shire’s White Moun­tains, will be in the spot­light at the Times Square fes­tiv­i­ties, join­ing Mayor Bill de Bla­sio to launch the ball drop a minute be­fore mid­night.

Si­mon will be joined on­stage by jour­nal­ists from U.S. and in­ter­na­tional news out­lets, in­clud­ing NBC Nightly News and Date­line NBC an­chor Lester Holt, ABC News Chief Global Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent Martha Rad­datz, and Karen At­tiah, global opin­ions ed­i­tor at The Washington Post.

A year ago At­tiah re­cruited Khashoggi to work at the news­pa­per. Since the writer was killed, she has been among those lead­ing calls for an­swers about his fate.

The but­ton-press­ing honor has in pre­vi­ous years gone to United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-Moon, an Iraq War veteran, U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor and the singer Lady Gaga.

Ja­mal Khashoggi

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