Times Square New Year's Eve ball drop cel­e­brated jour­nal­ists and press free­dom

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

Or­gan­is­ers of the Times Square ball drop, New York City's tra­di­tional New Year's cer­e­mony, have in­vited a group of jour­nal­ists to press the cer­e­mo­nial but­ton. Tim Tomp­kins, pres­i­dent of the Times Square Al­liance, said in a state­ment it was “fit­ting to cel­e­brate free press and free speech as we re­flect on where we've been dur­ing the past year and what it is we value most as a so­ci­ety”.

Among the group will be Karen At­tiah, who as global opin­ions ed­i­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Post over­saw the work of Ja­mal Khashoggi, the Saudi writer res­i­dent in the US who was mur­dered and dis­mem­bered in the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul in Oc­to­ber. The death of Khashoggi has been per­haps the high­est­pro­file in­ci­dent in a year of wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ments for press free­dom around the world. At­tiah has be­come a prom­i­nent voice in at­tempts to hold to ac­count Saudi crown prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, ac­cused of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mur­der, and his al­lies in Trump's White House.

The group of jour­nal­ists on­stage as mid­night ap­proaches will be ac­com­pa­nied by Joel Si­mon, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, a group which has had a busy year un­der an on­slaught of crit­i­cism from Don­ald Trump. Among in­sti­tu­tions reg­u­larly de­rided by the pres­i­dent as “fake news”, the New York Times will be rep­re­sented by deputy man­ag­ing ed­i­tor Re­becca Blu­men­stein, CNN will send an­chor Alisyn Camerota and NBC will send Lester Holt, the an­chor who fa­mously in­ter­viewed the pres­i­dent about his fir­ing of FBI di­rec­tor James Comey, an event at the heart of the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence and links be­tween Trump and Moscow.

In Septem­ber, CNN was among tar­gets of ex­plo­sive de­vices al­legedly sent in the mail by a fer­vent Trump sup­porter. The Times Square cel­e­bra­tions will fea­ture the usual celebri­ties and singers, with Snoop Dogg, St­ing and Christina Aguil­era booked to do their span­gly thing. Fore­cast­ers have pre­dicted a more com­fort­able evening than last year, which was one of the cold­est on record. This time, rain will be pos­si­ble as the gath­ered throng sees Bebe Rexha sing Imag­ine, by John Len­non, be­fore the tra­di­tional New Year count­down.

Jeff Straus, pres­i­dent of Count­down En­ter­tain­ment, which pro­duces the Times Square show, said: “As the ball drops, the spe­cial guests will lead the 60-se­cond count­down to 2019 joined by mil­lions of rev­ellers with a mes­sage of unity and har­mony for the new year.

“We thank the news or­gan­i­sa­tions and the jour­nal­ists for help­ing us cel­e­brate jour­nal­ism and press free­dom around the world.”

First pub­lished De­cem­ber 31, 2018 ---The Guardian

A test run of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop is per­formed on 30 De­cem­ber, 2018.

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