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Times Square to honor press freedom as it rings in 2019


The year 2018 saw continued pressure against the mainstream news media, deadly attacks against reporters and persistent calls of “fake news.”

But when the famous ball descends in Times Square on Monday to usher in 2019, reporters will receive a singular honor. Organizers say the festivities will celebrate journalism and press freedom.

The honor was confirmed via Twitter by event organizers.

According to the Reuters news service, two attacks in particular influenced organizers with the Times Square Alliance as they discussed in the fall who should get to initiate the ceremonial ball drop seconds before midnight.

One was the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Saudi writer and activist whose work appeared in The Washington Post. He was killed inside a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

The other key event: the mass shooting in June at The Capital, a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, in which five employees were killed.

“Throughout the year it’s been a big issue,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said in an interview, according to Reuters. “Times Square itself is the ultimate agora and public space.”

Tompkins pointed out that the famed Midtown Manhattan zone 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.”

Various news outlets said that apart from Simon, designated honorees include NBC Nightly News and “Dateline NBC” anchor Lester Holt, ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, Fox News Channel’s own Jon Scott, and Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at The Washington Post.

The button press has in previous years been performed by notables including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, an Iraq War veteran, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the singer Lady Gaga, Reuters reported.



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