Hong Kong’s Security Law: One Year Later, a City Remade

HONG KONG — With each passing day, the boundary between Hong Kong and the rest of China fades faster.

The Chinese Communist Party is remaking this city, permeating its once vibrant, irreverent character with ever more overt signs of its authoritarian will. The very texture of daily life is under assault as Beijing molds Hong Kong into something more familiar, more docile.

Residents now swarm police hotlines with reports about disloyal neighbors or colleagues. Teachers have been told to imbue students with patriotic fervor through 48-volume book sets called “My Home Is in China.” Public libraries have removed dozens of books from circulation, including one about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

when antigovernment protests erupted.

Now, armed with the expansive national security law it imposed on the city one year ago, Beijing is pushing to turn Hong Kong into another of its mainland megacities: economic engines where dissent is immediately smothered.

goose-step in the Chinese military fashion, replacing decades of British-style marching. City leaders regularly denounce “external elements” bent on undermining the country’s stability.

Senior officials in Hong Kong have assembled, right hands raised, to pledge fealty to the country, just as mainland bureaucrats are regularly called on to “biao tai,” Mandarin for “declaring your stance.”

also warn of termination or other vague consequences if violated. Mr. Li had heard some supervisors nagging his colleagues to fill out the form right away, he said, and employees competing to say how quickly they had complied.

“The rules that were to protect everyone — as employees and also as citizens — are being weakened,” Mr. Li said.

purge candidates it deemed disloyal, Beijing called the change “perfecting Hong Kong’s electoral system.” When Apple Daily, a major pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to close after the police arrested its top executives, the party said the publication had abused “so-called freedom of the press.” When dozens of opposition politicians organized an informal election primary, Chinese officials accused them of subversion and arrested them.

helped lead an operation that smuggled students and academics out of the mainland.

But Beijing is more sophisticated now than in 1989, Mr. Chan said. It had cowed Hong Kong even without sending in troops; that demanded respect.

end of an era.

The rush of mainland money has brought some new conditions.

declaring that those who do not go risk missing opportunities.

Growing up in Hong Kong, Toby Wong, 23, had never considered working on the mainland. Her mother came from the mainland decades earlier for work. Salaries there were considerably lower.

promising to subsidize nearly $1,300 of a $2,300 monthly wage — higher than that of many entry-level positions at home. A high-speed rail between the two cities meant she could return on weekends to see her mother, whom Ms. Wong must financially support.

Ms. Wong applied to two Chinese technology companies.

“This isn’t a political question,” she said. “It’s a practical question.”

many signals were missed.

  • Mapping Out China’s Post-Covid Path: Xi Jinping, China’s leader, is seeking to balance confidence and caution as his country strides ahead while other places continue to grapple with the pandemic.
  • A Challenge to U.S. Global Leadership: As President Biden predicts a struggle between democracies and their opponents, Beijing is eager to champion the other side.
  • ‘Red Tourism’ Flourishes: New and improved attractions dedicated to the Communist Party’s history, or a sanitized version of it, are drawing crowds ahead of the party’s centennial.
  • The Hong Kong government has issued hundreds of pages of new curriculum guidelines designed to instill “affection for the Chinese people.” Geography classes must affirm China’s control over disputed areas of the South China Sea. Students as young as 6 will learn the offenses under the security law.

    Lo Kit Ling, who teaches a high school civics course, is now careful to say only positive things about China in class. While she had always tried to offer multiple perspectives on any topic, she said, she worries that a critical view could be quoted out of context by a student or parent.

    accused it of poisoning Hong Kong’s youth. The course had encouraged students to analyze China critically, teaching the country’s economic successes alongside topics such as the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

    Officials have ordered the subject replaced with a truncated version that emphasizes the positive.

    “It’s not teaching,” Ms. Lo said. “It’s just like a kind of brainwashing.” She will teach an elective on hospitality studies instead.

    Schoolchildren are not the only ones being asked to watch for dissent. In November, the Hong Kong police opened a hotline for reporting suspected violations of the security law. An official recently applauded residents for leaving more than 100,000 messages in six months. This week, the police arrested a 37-year-old man and accused him of sedition, after receiving reports that stickers pasted on the gate of an apartment unit potentially violated the security law.

    most effective tools of social control on the mainland. It is designed to deter people like Johnny Yui Siu Lau, a radio host in Hong Kong, from being quite so free in his criticisms of China.

    Mr. Lau said a producer recently told him that a listener had reported him to the broadcast authority.

    “It will be a competition or a struggle, how the Hong Kong people can protect the freedom of speech,” Mr. Lau said.

    censor films deemed a danger to national security. Some officials have demanded that artwork by dissidents like Ai Weiwei be barred from museums.

    Still, Hong Kong is not yet just another mainland metropolis. Residents have proved fiercely unwilling to relinquish freedom, and some have rushed to preserve totems of a discrete Hong Kong identity.

    font of hope and pride amid a resurgence in interest in Canto-pop.

    Last summer, Herbert Chow, who owns Chickeeduck, a children’s clothing chain, installed a seven-foot figurine of a protester — a woman wearing a gas mask and thrusting a protest flag — and other protest art in his stores.

    But Mr. Chow, 57, has come under pressure from his landlords, several of whom have refused to renew his leases. There were 13 Chickeeduck stores in Hong Kong last year; now there are five. He said he was uncertain how long his city could keep resisting Beijing’s inroads.

    “Fear — it can make you stronger, because you don’t want to live under fear,” he said. Or “it can kill your desire to fight.”

    Joy Dong contributed research.

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    Belarus Is Isolated as Other Countries Move to Ban Flights

    MOSCOW — The tray tables were being raised and the seat backs returned to their upright positions as passengers on Ryanair Flight 4978 prepared for the scheduled landing in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Then the plane made an abrupt U-turn.

    For many passengers, it initially seemed like one of those unexpected delays in airline travel. But after the pilot announced the plane had been diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, one passenger — Roman Protasevich, a prominent Belarusian opposition journalist who had been living in exile since 2019 — grew terrified, certain that he faced arrest.

    “He panicked because we were about to land in Minsk,” Marius Rutkauskas, who was sitting one row ahead of Mr. Protasevich, told the Lithuanian broadcaster LRT upon arrival in Vilnius.

    Sunday’s ordeal — described by many European officials as an extraordinary, state-sponsored hijacking by Belarus to seize Mr. Protasevich — quickly led to one of the most severe East-West flare-ups in recent years.

    report rejecting the idea there were K.G.B. agents on the plane, instead showing three people who said on camera that they had decided to stay in Minsk by their own choosing. They included a Greek man who said he had been traveling to Vilnius on his way to visit his wife in Minsk.

    In Lithuania, the police launched an investigation on suspicion of hijacking and kidnapping, and interviewed passengers and crew. They were told that the fighter jet dispatched by Mr. Lukashenko to escort the flight had not forced the Ryanair plane to land, according to people with knowledge of the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly.

    Instead, these people said, the pilot had decided to land the plane in Minsk after Belarusian air traffic control had requested that he do so because of a bomb threat on board.

    other confessional videos that critics of Mr. Lukashenko have been forced to record while in jail.

    an urgent meeting for Thursday to discuss it.

    In recent years, Mr. Lukashenko had profited by playing the interests of Russia and the West off against one another. But amid last summer’s popular uprising against him over his disputed re-election, Mr. Lukashenko threw in his lot with Mr. Putin — and has relied on his support ever since.

    Last year, the European Union sanctioned Belarus officials — including Mr. Lukashenko — over human rights abuses, to little apparent effect. The flight bans could have a greater impact, at least on regular people; the summer 2021 timetable of Belavia, Belarus’s national carrier, includes flights to 20 E.U. cities.

    And some analysts said the restrictions could require costly rerouting for European airlines, which are already avoiding parts of Ukraine, Belarus’s southern neighbor, because of conflict with Russia.

    The flight bans could cause new problems for Mr. Lukashenko inside his country, where the ease of travel to the neighboring European Union had long softened the strictures of living inside an authoritarian state. Ukraine, which is not a member of the E.U., also said it would ban flights to and from Belarus. The growing isolation means that Belarusians will increasingly need to travel east to Russia in order to get out of the country.

    Yevgeny Lipkovich, a popular Minsk-based blogger and commentator critical of Mr. Lukashenko, said that his own travels abroad had allowed him to “remain an optimist, despite the regime’s best efforts to force me into depression.”

    “If they close down the air loophole, there’s no question that the pressure inside the country will increase,” Mr. Lipkovich said. “And it’s disgusting to live in a pariah state.”

    Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko from Moscow; Tomas Dapkus from Vilnius, Lithuania; Stanley Reed from London; and Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk from Brussels.

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    Fox News Files to Dismiss Dominion’s Lawsuit Over 2020 Election Coverage

    Fox News Media, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled cable group, filed a motion on Tuesday to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought against it in March by Dominion Voting Systems, an election technology company that accused Fox News of propagating lies that ruined its reputation after the 2020 presidential election.

    The Dominion lawsuit, along with a similar defamation claim brought in February by another election company, Smartmatic, have been widely viewed as test cases in a growing legal effort to battle disinformation in the news media. And it is another byproduct of former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless attempts to undermine President Biden’s clear victory.

    In a 61-page response filed in Delaware Superior Court, the Fox legal team argues that Dominion’s suit threatened the First Amendment powers of a news organization to chronicle and assess newsworthy claims in a high-stakes political contest.

    “A free press must be able to report both sides of a story involving claims striking at the core of our democracy,” Fox says in the motion, “especially when those claims prompt numerous lawsuits, government investigations and election recounts.” The motion adds: “The American people deserved to know why President Trump refused to concede despite his apparent loss.”

    Charles Babcock, who has a background in media law, and Scott Keller, a former chief counsel to Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. Fox has also filed to dismiss the Smartmatic suit; that defense is being led by Paul D. Clement, a former solicitor general under President George W. Bush.

    “There are two sides to every story,” Mr. Babcock and Mr. Keller wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “The press must remain free to cover both sides, or there will be a free press no more.”

    a novel tactic in the battle over disinformation, but proponents say the strategy has shown some early results. The conservative news outlet Newsmax apologized last month after a Dominion employee, in a separate legal case, accused the network of spreading baseless rumors about his role in the election. Fox Business canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight” a day after Smartmatic sued Fox in February and named Mr. Dobbs as a co-defendant.

    Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting.

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    Israel’s Strike on Media Building in Gaza Provokes Outrage

    The prominent 12-story building in Gaza City that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday not only housed the offices of media organizations including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

    It also offered a vantage point for the world on Gaza, as A.P. cameras positioned on the roof terrace captured Israeli bombardments and Palestinian militants’ rocket attacks during periodic flare-ups in fighting — including over the past week.

    “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today,” the A.P.’s president, Gary Pruitt, said in a statement following the Israeli attack.

    The leveling of the al-Jalaa tower, which occurred as fighting between Israelis and Palestinians spiraled on several fronts, drew condemnations from across the world. The Israel Defense Forces said that its fighter jets struck the tower because it also contained military assets belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.

    tweeted that the building was “an important base of operations” for Hamas military intelligence, where it “gathered intel for attacks against Israel, manufactured weapons & positioned equipment to hamper I.D.F. operations.”

    The I.D.F. — which frequently accuses Hamas of using civilians as shields — provided advance warning to civilians in the building to allow evacuation. The A.P. reported that the owner of the building, Jawad Mahdi, was “told he had an hour to make sure everyone has left the building.”

    In the minutes before the airstrike, Mr. Mahdi was filmed desperately pleading with the Israeli Army, asking them to allow four journalists who had been filming an interview — with the father of four children slain in an Israeli strike on a refugee camp on Saturday morning — an extra 10 minutes to retrieve their belongings.

    erroneously told foreign media that ground troops had entered Gaza — raised concerns that Israel was interfering with independent reporting on the conflict. In a statement, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists questioned whether the I.D.F. was “deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”

    A White House spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, tweeted that the United States had “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he was “deeply disturbed” by the strike and warned that “indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures” would violate international law.

    After the strike, journalists from other news organizations gathered near the rubble. Heba Akila, an Al Jazeera journalist who had been broadcasting from the tower when the warning call was made, said: “This is clearly to silence the truth and the voices of journalists.”

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    Guilty Verdict for Hong Kong Journalist as Media Faces ‘Frontal Assault’

    HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s police chief warned journalists they could be investigated for reporting “fake news.” A newspaper controlled by the Chinese government called for a ban on the city’s biggest pro-democracy news outlet. Masked men ransacked the offices of a publication critical of China’s Communist Party and smashed its presses.

    Hong Kong’s reputation as a bastion of press freedom in Asia, home to journalism that is far more aggressive and independent than that found next door in mainland China, has been under sustained pressure for years. Now, as Beijing moves to stamp out dissent in the city, the news media is under direct assault. Traditional pressure tactics, such as advertising boycotts, have been eclipsed by the sort of bare-knuckles campaign that could leave prominent journalists silenced and their outlets transformed or closed.

    Recent targets include the freewheeling pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, whose founder was sentenced to 14 months in prison last week, and RTHK, a public broadcaster known for its deep investigations. On Thursday, one of the network’s prizewinning producers, Choy Yuk-ling,was found guilty of making false statements to obtain public records for a report that was critical of the police. She was ordered to pay a fine of 6,000 Hong Kong dollars, about $775.

    “We seem to have turned some sort of a corner fairly recently,” said Keith Richburg, director of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center. “Self-censorship is still an issue and not knowing where the red lines are, but now we see what seems to be more of a frontal assault on the media in Hong Kong.”

    imposed a tough national security law last year, criminalizing many forms of antigovernment speech. Then it made changes to Hong Kong’s election system, tightening the pro-Beijing establishment’s grip on power.

    removed from office. The protest movement was silenced. Activists were jailed. And journalists found themselves in the government’s cross hairs.

    On Thursday, a Hong Kong court found that Ms. Choy, a freelance producer, had broken the law when she used a public database of license plate records as part of an investigation into a July 2019 mob attack at a train station, in which 45 people were injured. Activists have accused the police of turning a blind eye to the violence.

    She was arrested in November and charged with making false statements about why she had used the publicly accessible database.

    Ms. Choy said her case showed how the authorities were trying to crack down on the news media and restrict access to information that was once publicly available.

    “I realized since my arrest it’s not my individual issue,” she said in an interview. “It’s a bigger issue of press freedom in Hong Kong.”

    Press freedom groups have denounced Ms. Choy’s arrest and described it as part of a campaign of harassment. The Committee to Protect Journalists called the government’s case an “absurdly disproportionate action that amounts to an assault on press freedom.”

    The case against Ms. Choy is the latest move against RTHK, Hong Kong’s leading public radio and television network, which for years offered hard-hitting reports critical of the government. The outlet’s charter grants it editorial independence, but as a government entity, it has little protection from officials who want to see it brought under stricter control. Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, said last week that the government should consider closing it altogether.

    Just months after the national security law was passed, the Hong Kong government called for RTHK to be more tightly supervised by government-appointed advisers.

    The head of RTHK, a veteran reporter and editor, was replaced in February by a civil servant with no journalism experience. Under that new leader, Patrick Li, two radio programs known for their lively political commentary were suspended.

    RTHK reported.

    International news outlets have also come under pressure in Hong Kong. An editor for the Financial Times was forced to leave the city in 2018, in apparent retaliation for his role in hosting a talk by a pro-independence activist. The New York Times has moved a number of editors from Hong Kong to Seoul, in part because of problems with securing work permits.

    Epoch Times, a newspaper linked to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in mainland China, has dealt with even blunter attacks. On April 12, four men stormed the paper’s printing plant, smashing presses and computers. The newspaper said no one was injured and it was able to resume publication soon after.

    raided by the police last year, and Mr. Lai faces charges related to the national security law for allegedly calling for American sanctions against Hong Kong. Under the law, crimes “of a grave nature,” an intentionally ambiguous term, carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.

    The authorities have not been shy about threatening journalists. They have made their opinions known in the pages of state media, on the floor of the local legislature and from police headquarters.

    State-controlled newspapers in Hong Kong have escalated their criticism of Apple Daily, calling for it to be regulated or even closed under the national security law.

    “If Apple Daily is not removed, a gap still exists in Hong Kong’s national security,” Ta Kung Pao, a newspaper owned by Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said in a commentary last week.

    Ms. Ip, the pro-establishment lawmaker, made clear to RTHK journalists what she believed their role was. In a legislative session last week, she said that a reporter for the outlet should be willing “to be a government mouthpiece.”

    Chris Tang, Hong Kong’s police commissioner, last week warned that publications which produce “fake news” could face investigation, and he called for new laws to help regulate the media.

    Nevertheless, many reporters say they will not be cowed by the government’s efforts to stifle their reporting.

    “Some are disillusioned,” said Gladys Chiu, the chairwoman of the RTHK Program Staff Union. “But some feel there is still space to fight for.”

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    Pakistani Journalist Is Shot After Criticizing the Military

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan —A veteran Pakistani journalist who has been critical of the country’s powerful military establishment was shot near his home on Tuesday but survived, officials said.

    The shooting sent a chill through Pakistan’s journalist community, which has come under withering pressure from the military and its allies in the nation’s governing party.

    The journalist, Absar Alam, who has also served as the chairman of the country’s electronic media regulatory authority, was wounded when he was shot during an evening walk at a park near his residence in Islamabad on Tuesday. Officials said Mr. Alam was in stable condition.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the country’s interior minister, said he has ordered an investigation, and Fawad Chaudhry, the information minister, condemned what he called an assassination attempt.

    accusing the country’s powerful intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, of pressuring him in 2018 to feature critical coverage of the previous government, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N, party, during anti-government protests.

    Mr. Alam has mentioned threats against his life before, and he is viewed as being sympathetic to the PML-N party, which has been critical of the military’s hold on power.

    Attacks and threats against journalists have become commonplace in Pakistan. One of the most notable attacks came in 2014, when the influential talk show host Hamid Mir was shot and wounded in Karachi, in an assault his family blamed on the country’s intelligence agencies.

    On Tuesday, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and a leader within the PML-N party, condemned the attack on Mr. Alam.

    “Silencing the voice of dissent is a cancer that has plagued this country for many years,” she said in a Twitter post. “Absar Alam Sahab is the latest victim of this cruel & barbaric crime.”

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    Myanmar Soldiers, Aiming to Silence Coup Protests, Target Journalists

    Ten days after seizing power in Myanmar, the generals issued their first command to journalists: Stop using the words “coup,” “regime” and “junta” to describe the military’s takeover of the government. Few reporters heeded the Orwellian directive, and the junta embraced a new goal — crushing all free expression.

    Since then, the regime has arrested at least 56 journalists, outlawed online news outlets known for hard-edge reporting and crippled communications by cutting off mobile data service. Three photojournalists have been shot and wounded while taking photographs of the anti-coup demonstrations.

    With professional journalists under pressure, many young people who came of age during a decade of social media and information sharing in Myanmar have jumped into the fray, calling themselves citizen journalists and risking their lives to help document the military’s brutality. They take photographs and videos with their phones and share them online when they get access. It is a role so common now they are known simply as “CJs.”

    “They are targeting professional journalists so our country needs more CJs,” said Ma Thuzar Myat, one of the citizen journalists. “I know I might get killed at some point for taking a video record of what is happening. But I won’t step back.”

    the Tatmadaw, as the military is known, stamped out a pro-democracy movement by massacring an estimated 3,000 people. She said she saw it as her duty to help capture evidence of today’s violence even though one soldier had already threatened to kill her if she didn’t stop.

    The regime’s apparent goal is to turn back the clock to a time when the military ruled the country, the media was firmly in its grip and only the wealthiest people had access to cellphones and the internet. But the new generation of young people who grew up with the internet say they are not giving up their freedoms without a fight.

    Facebook became the dominant online forum. A vibrant media sprouted online and newsstands overflowed with competing papers.

    Since the Feb. 1 coup, protests have erupted almost daily — often with young people at the forefront — and a broad-based civil disobedience movement has brought the economy to a virtual halt. In response, soldiers and the police have killed at least 536 people.

    At the United Nations on Wednesday, the special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, warned that “a blood bath is imminent.” The regime has arrested thousands, including the country’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. On Thursday, one of her lawyers said she had been charged with violating the official secrets act, adding to a list of alleged offenses.

    While the military uses state-owned media to spread its propaganda and fire off warnings, attacks on journalists have increased drastically in recent weeks, as have arrests.

    hop on his good leg as they lead him away.

    Another photojournalist shot that day, U Si Thu, 36, was hit in his left hand as he was holding his camera to his face and photographing soldiers in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city. He said he believes the soldier who shot him was aiming for his head.

    “I had two cameras,” he said, “so it was obvious that I am a photojournalist even though I had no press helmet or vest.”

    “I’m sure that the military junta is targeting journalists because they know we are showing the world the reality on the ground and they want to stop us by arresting or killing us,” he added.

    Of the 56 journalists arrested, half have been released, according to a group that is tracking arrests. Among those freed were reporters for The Associated Press and the BBC.

    But 28 remain in custody, including at least 15 who face prison sentences of up to three years under an unusual law that prohibits the dissemination of information that might induce military officers to disregard or fail in their duties.

    Ma Kay Zon Nway, 27, a reporter for Myanmar Now, live streamed her own arrest in late February as she was running from the police in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Her video shows the police firing in the air as protesters flee. The sound of her labored breathing is audible as the police catch up and take her away.

    She is among those who have been charged under the vague and sweeping statute. She has been allowed to meet just once in person with her lawyer.

    Mr. Swe Win, the Myanmar Now editor, himself served seven years in prison for protesting in 1998. “All these court proceedings are being done just for the sake of formality,” he said, adding, “We cannot expect any fair treatment.”

    With mobile communications blocked, Facebook banned and nightly internet shutdowns, Myanmar’s mainstream media has come to rely on citizen journalists for videos and news tips, said Mr. Myint Kyaw, the former press council secretary.

    One of them, Ko Aung Aung Kyaw, 26, was taking videos of the police arresting people in his Yangon neighborhood when an officer spotted him. The officer swore at him, aimed his rifle and fired, Mr. Aung Aung Kyaw’s video shows.

    The bullet hit a wall in front of him.

    “I know that recording these kinds of things is very risky and I might get shot to death or arrested,” he said. “But I believe I need to keep doing it for the sake of having a record of evidence to punish them.”

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    India’s New Media Rules Could Silence Online News Outlets

    NEW DELHI — Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has cultivated and cowed large parts of the country’s normally raucous news media in recent years as part of a broader campaign against dissent.

    One group remains untamed: A relatively new generation of scrappy, online-focused news outlets. With names like The Wire, The Print, The Scroll, and NewsLaundry, these publications lack big corporate owners that Mr. Modi’s party can court. They also don’t depend on government advertising money that officials can threaten to withhold.

    Now, the platforms say, Mr. Modi is working to rein them in, too.

    India’s media outlets had until Saturday to comply with new government rules that they say will force them to change or take down content if online trolls mount a concerted campaign of complaints against their coverage. It would also give the government sweeping new powers to quickly take down articles or other material.

    The rules, they say, will force them to toe Mr. Modi’s line or close their doors as the prime minister pushes his most ambitious and controversial initiatives.

    freedom of the press has eroded under Mr. Modi’s watch.

    Still, while his efforts enjoy broad support in India, critics of his campaigns — from remaking the country’s money system overnight to changing citizenship laws to disadvantage Muslims — have found a home in the robust online space. Their potential audience is vast: India could have more than 800 million smartphone users by next year.

    responded by threatening the critics and international platforms like Twitter.

    In February, it also enacted online content rules that empower complainers. Online platforms must name a grievance officer who acknowledges complaints within one day and resolves them within 15. The complaint must be taken swiftly to a three-layer system, with a final stop at a government-appointed body that can order platforms to delete or change content.

    The new rules also give the government emergency powers to take down content immediately if officials believe it threatens public order or the country’s security or sovereignty.

    Netflix and Amazon. The full scope of the law is unclear; some people believe that it could apply to international news publishers like The New York Times.

    The government has said it wants to protect average users from online abuse. Officials have cited the spread of deliberate disinformation, harassment of women, abusive language and disrespect of religious groups. Mr. Modi’s ministers have said the rules create a “soft-touch oversight mechanism” that would protect India and prevent “internet imperialism” by major social media platforms.

    ownership structure behind many Indian media outlets makes them too dependent on advertising and investors, he argues, influencing their editorial decisions. With The Wire — owned by the Foundation for Independent Journalism, a trust — he wanted to explore a different arrangement.

    The Wire operates from a crammed southern New Delhi office. Mr. Varadarajan sits in a corner. To save money after India’s stringent Covid-19 lockdown last year, The Wire vacated a floor.

    “We have all been downgraded,” he told a columnist one recent afternoon who had looked for him at his old office upstairs. “Cutbacks.”

    sudden increase in the fortunes of the son of one Mr. Modi’s most important lieutenants. They have also scrutinized business deals that may have favored companies seen as friendly to the prime minister.

    At a recent meeting at The Wire newsroom, the conversation ranged from coverage plans for state elections, to how to shoot video quickly, to how to balance working at home and in the office as coronavirus cases tick up.

    But much of the talk focused on the new regulations. Mr. Varadarajan told his staff that The Wire’s first court hearing had gone well but that the authorities were watching the digital platforms closely.

    “Now that you know they will be waiting for opportunity to latch onto anything, look at it as extra responsibility,” Mr. Varadarajan said. “We have to be 150 percent careful to not leave any wiggle room to troublemakers, to not make their life any easier.”

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    Iowa Journalist Who Was Arrested at Protest Is Found Not Guilty

    An Iowa jury acquitted a journalist on Wednesday in a highly unusual trial of a reporter who was arrested last spring as she covered a protest against racism and police violence.

    Andrea Sahouri, a public safety reporter for The Des Moines Register, was arrested May 31 while covering a sometimes chaotic demonstration near the Merle Hay mall in downtown Des Moines. Police ordered protesters to disperse and used pepper spray against them. Ms. Sahouri, who said she identified herself as a reporter, was arrested along with her then-boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, who had accompanied her that day.

    Ms. Sahouri, 25, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges of failing to disperse and interference with official acts, each punishable by up to 30 days in jail. On Wednesday, a six-person jury found Ms. Sahouri and Mr. Robnett not guilty of both charges.

    “I’m thankful to the jury for doing the right thing,” Ms. Sahouri said in a statement after the verdict. “Their decision upholds freedom of the press and justice in our democracy.”

    part of a nationwide movement that sprang up after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed last May while in police custody in Minneapolis.

    The Register decried the charges against Ms. Sahouri as “a violation of free press rights and a miscarriage of justice.”

    The trial, which took place at the Drake University Legal Clinic in Iowa City, started on Monday, with Judge Lawrence P. McLellan presiding. It was also live-streamed.

    body cam footage taken by another police officer that captured Ms. Sahouri stating that she was a journalist for The Register. “This is my job!” she shouted.

    Amnesty International, said the prosecution represented “a clear violation of press freedom and fit a disturbing pattern of abuses against journalists by police in the U.S.A.”

    The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project comprising a number of press freedom organizations, said that 11 other journalists working for U.S. publications were facing criminal charges after being arrested while covering protests last year.

    Kirstin McCudden, the managing editor of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, expressed concern about the prosecution of Ms. Sahouri. “It’s a concerning precedent for her to have not only been arrested and assaulted with pepper spray while reporting but then to also face trial,” she said.

    Tomas Murawski, a reporter for The Alamance News in North Carolina, is among the other journalists facing prosecution. He was arrested Oct. 31 while covering a protest in Graham, N.C., and charged with resisting, delaying or obstructing a police officer. The case is set for a March 31 court hearing.

    April Ehrlich, a reporter for Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Ore., was arrested Sept. 22 while reporting on a police action to clear homeless people from a park in Medford, Ore. Ms. Ehrlich, who won an Edward R. Murrow award last year, was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. A pretrial conference hearing is scheduled for March 16.

    Another journalist who has been charged is Richard Cummings, a freelance photographer. He was arrested June 1 while covering a demonstration in Worcester, Mass. He had a court hearing on Monday, and his next court date is April 20.

    Thomas J. Healy, a constitutional law professor at Seton Hall University law school, said that arrests and prosecutions of journalists could have “a chilling effect on the press.”

    “We rely on journalists to cover protests and the police response to protests,” he said. “This kind of transparency is how our democracy functions effectively.”

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