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EXPLAINER: Why is media access at the border an issue? – The Record (New Westminster)

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NEW YORK — Access to government-run facilities housing young immigrants on the border with Mexico has caused one of the first tussles between news organizations and the two-month-old administration of Joe Biden. Before the doors opened slightly this week, the media was limited in depicting how people in U.S. custody were being treated, and how that compared to what was done in the Trump years.

What’s behind that? Here’s a look.

WHY HAS MEDIA ACCESS BEEN BLOCKED?

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a cliche for a reason. And governments know it well.

“This is sort of the default that government agencies go to when things are unflattering,” says Freddy Martinez, policy analyst for Open the Government, an organization that argues for government transparency.

News organizations say they have repeatedly sought access and been blocked. The Associated Press, for example, has asked Homeland Security officials for access to Border Patrol facilities at least seven times, without a response. The Biden administration has pointed to the need to establish safeguards for COVID-19 transmission and protecting the privacy of children as they work to set up their system for processing migrants.

“I will commit to transparency, as soon as I am in the position to implement what we are doing,” the president said at a news conference this week. When pressed on how long it would take for that to happen, Biden said he didn’t know.

But some journalists called that hypocrisy given his pledges during the campaign. After the news conference, CNN’s Jake Tapper said that Biden’s stance was “not really in keeping with the transparency that he promised the American people.”

BUT I’VE SEEN SOME PICTURES OF CHILDREN IN RECENT DAYS. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

Some of them aren’t coming from the professional media but from people with special access.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, on Monday released some still pictures taken the previous weekend when he was part of a congressional delegation visiting a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Donna, Texas. Those photos, taken through plastic sheeting, showed children, several of them covered with blankets, lying on mats lined side by side on the floor.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued some government-shot video clips and, on Wednesday, allowed an NBC News camera crew and reporter Gabe Gutierrez to visit an HHS facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas.

In the NBC video, some children were shown lining up as oranges were distributed, and others played soccer at an outdoor field. Their faces were obscured. An empty dorm room, with four beds, was shown, as was clothing handed out to youngsters.

While that access was an important step, Gutierrez and others noted that the HHS-run centres are where children are sent after processing at a customs facility like the one visited by Cuellar. The customs locations are considered much more crowded, and journalists have still not been allowed access to them.

DID FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP ALLOW JOURNALISTS?

The three presidents who preceded Biden all allowed at least some access, Martinez and other groups that are seeking more access said in a letter this week to Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of Homeland Security.

Such access wasn’t always aimed at pleasing the press, though. Stephen Miller, Trump’s top immigration advisor, told Politico’s Playbook this week that he wanted the press to have access, reasoning that images of immigrants held at the border were something Trump’s supporters wanted to see.

WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

Because bad information often replaces no information. A lack of good information creates a vacuum that activists on both sides of the contentious issue of immigration are only too eager to fill, says Dan Shelley, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association. He says: “It is more important than ever that journalists be allowed the necessary access to report accurately and independently on the border patrol’s response.”

___

David Bauder is the media writer for The Associated Press, based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dbauder

David Bauder, The Associated Press

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Media Beat: August 05, 2021 | FYIMusicNews – FYI Music News

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Toronto, Vancouver Island protests put spotlight on media access

Police and politicians’ efforts to limit public access to recent events in Toronto and Vancouver Island have cast a spotlight on the role of journalists and spurred concerns over freedom of the press.

The decision by authorities in Toronto to fence off public parks last month as municipal staff and police cleared homeless encampments sparked backlash from media outlets and advocates, who have petitioned the city to allow reporters on site during the operations.

The push for media access in Toronto came on the heels of a court decision that ordered RCMP in British Columbia to allow reporters entry to blockades in Fairy Creek, where demonstrators have been protesting old-growth logging. – Elena De Luigi, The Canadian Press

The three next steps required to preserve journalism in the digital age

As Canadian news organizations continue their unsustainable revenue decline, who should step into the breach but Facebook and Google, the two giant platforms that gobble up three quarters of all digital ad dollars?

They have signed secret deals with dozens of desperate publishers to provide financial and other supports.

On the surface, their assistance may appear a positive development. Closer consideration reveals a disturbing new dependency. One of the great functions of journalism is to hold the powerful — political and economic — to account. – Edward Greenspon & Katie Davey, The Star

Zoom reaches US $85M settlement over user privacy, ‘Zoombombing’

Zoom Video Communications Inc. has agreed to pay US$85 million and bolster its security practices to settle a lawsuit claiming it violated users’ privacy rights by sharing personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, and letting hackers disrupt Zoom meetings in a practice called Zoombombing.

Though Zoom collected about $1.3B in Zoom Meetings subscriptions from class members, the plaintiffs’ lawyers called the $85 million settlement reasonable given the litigation risks. They intend to seek up to $21.25 million for legal fees. – Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

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Toronto, Vancouver Island protests shine spotlight on media access – Peace Arch News – Peace Arch News

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Police and politicians’ efforts to limit public access to recent events in Toronto and Vancouver Island have cast a spotlight on the role of journalists and spurred concerns over freedom of the press.

The decision by authorities in Toronto to fence off public parks last month as municipal staff and police cleared homeless encampments sparked backlash from media outlets and advocates, who have petitioned the city to allow reporters on site during the operations.

The push for media access in Toronto came on the heels of a court decision that ordered RCMP in British Columbia to allow reporters entry to blockades in Fairy Creek, where demonstrators have been protesting old-growth logging. The judge in that case, which was launched after journalists reported being blocked from the site, found police should only restrict access if there is an operational or safety concern.

In Toronto, the city has moved to dismantle several homeless encampments — which emerged during the pandemic as many avoided shelters over fears of COVID-19 — sparking protests and confrontations that have at times erupted into violence.

The Canadian Association of Journalists called the move to bar reporters from Toronto parks during the clearing of the camps “disappointing to witness and wholly unacceptable,” and stressed media rights are enshrined in law.

“Stop arresting or threatening reporters for no good reason. That’s a red line that cannot be crossed,” Brent Jolly, the association’s president, said in an email.

Tensions boiled over at Lamport Stadium Park two weeks ago after a large crowd refused to leave the site that authorities had fenced in. Multiple scuffles broke out and police were seen pushing those who didn’t comply. By the end of the day, police said 26 people were arrested and charged with offences that included assault with a weapon, assaulting a peace officer and trespassing.

A day earlier, an encampment at Alexandra Park was cleared by city staff and police after a fence was put up. That operation also saw several people arrested, including a photojournalist with The Canadian Press who was escorted out of the closed-off area in handcuffs. He was issued a notice of trespass, which doesn’t carry a charge but bars him from returning to the site for 90 days.

A spokesman for the city said staff closed off the parks during the clearings and prevented anyone from going in, “not just media,” in order to speak to those living in the encampment, as well as remove tents and debris.

“We understand and appreciate the concerns raised by the media and the role they have in bearing witness and documenting city operations,” Brad Ross said in a statement.

He said the city arranged pooled media coverage for the Lamport Stadium operation, which typically allows select members of the media access to an event so they can later share the material they gather with others.

“The pool arrangement was designed to allow media to see the city’s actions, while ensuring the safety of all, as well as addressing the sensitivity around privacy,” Ross said.

The CAJ’s Jolly said, however, that the pool coverage the city set up for the encampment clearing was “inadequate” because it restricted the ability for journalists to “freely cover” evictions taking place in a public park.

“Attempting to control the work of journalists while they are doing their job is entirely inappropriate,” he said, adding that a pool arrangement is generally used when there is limited space for press.

“The work journalists do is both professional and conducted in service to the public and any attempts to short-circuit that work is wholly incompatible with the long-standing tradition of a free press in Canada.”

Carissima Mathen, a common law professor with the University of Ottawa, said mounting an effective legal challenge to get access to “relatively short-term” events is difficult because it likely won’t be possible to get an injunction in time.

“It’s possible that you could try and make the case right after the fact to get some kind of declaration, but it’s usually not very practical,” she said.

Mathen said it is important to consider questions like how far from a fence police and city staff are when they’re carrying out their operations, whether reporters can speak with people as they come out, and how long barricades will stay up.

In the case of Fairy Creek, since it had been happening for weeks, those journalists were able to get an injunction to stop the RCMP from barring them from entering the blockades, Mathen said.

Five Toronto councillors who wrote to the city’s mayor last month denouncing the “extreme show of force” during the clearing of encampments said any obstruction of media access to the operations is “undemocratic and unconstitutional.”

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: Fairy Creek old-growth protests hit 500-arrest mark

RELATED: UK judge refuses US extradition of WikiLeaks founder Assange

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Baltimore flutist fired months after social media rebuke – Alaska Highway News

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BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has fired its principal flutist, months after distancing itself from her social media posts that questioned the safety of the coronavirus vaccines, the efficacy of face masks and the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

The orchestra offered only the broadest outline of their decision to dismiss Emily Skala, but their statement suggests there were multiple violations of multiple policies. Leaked workplace emails from Skala also had come under scrutiny.

BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome said the musician was fired under the progressive discipline policy agreed to with the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore.

“Ms. Skala has had discipline imposed upon her over these past few months for violating several policies; unfortunately, she has repeated the conduct for which she had been previously disciplined, and dismissal was the necessary and appropriate reaction to this behavior,” the BSO statement said.

The firing comes roughly six months after the orchestra publicly rebuked her for controversial social media posts. She’d been suspended from work duties and was notified by phone Tuesday that she had lost her job. The 33-year-veteran of Baltimore’s symphony has consulted with lawyers and is exploring her options.

When asked about her social media posts spreading misinformation about the safety of the coronavirus vaccine, she said: “I did all of this basically because I wanted to protect the orchestras of the country. I wanted as few people, as few musicians, to be lost.”

In a Wednesday phone interview with The Associated Press, she also suggested work relationships between her and “younger members” of the BSO had worsened over the last year. She asserted that younger colleagues had spread “false allegations” against her and expressed being uncomfortable being on stage with her. She believes the BSO should have rebuked them.

“They (the BSO) cowered in the face of strong emotional reactions and they enabled the emotional reactions to dominate the workplace,” she said

One incident that she believes led to her dismissal occurred July 23, when she went to Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to hand in a tax form. She declined to wear mask and had not had a COVID-19 test as is required by BSO. She attempted to open the door to hand her form to a security guard. Skala said symphony officials interpreted this as violating the terms of the suspension barring her from the building.

She asserted that the BSO violated her constitutional rights, including freedom of speech, and “committed several crimes against me.”

Gautam Hans, a technology law and free speech expert at Vanderbilt University, said a quick review of the basic facts suggest that the BSO flutist likely had a record of noncompliance with company practices. He said the First Amendment generally applies to the government, not private entities, and businesses have a great amount of leeway in their decisions.

“Of course, there might be an issue about whether, as she claims, that record was scant or manufactured. But that’s much more of a employment law question than a free speech one. I think employers have to be very careful about whether and how they police employees’ speech, particularly outside of work. But it’s not strictly a First Amendment question,” Hans said in an email.

In February, symphony officials issued a statement saying they did not “condone or support” the views expressed in Skala’s social media posts and added that her statements did not “reflect our core values or code of conduct grounded in humanity and respect.”

Skala’s firing was applauded by Melissa Wimbish, an opera and contemporary singer who publicly posted leaked emails that Skala had written to BSO players after an online meeting last year.

Critics said the content of Skala’s emails were racist and antisemitic, which she denies.

Among other things, Skala wrote that BSO should not publicly support the Black Lives Matter movement because it would be excessively “political,” adding that she thought it was a conspiracy led by top Democrats and supported by billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

“This behavior is especially harmful to our community, not to mention visiting artists, patrons, and students. As a Black woman who was hired by the BSO many times, it was painful to see the lack of action and care in addressing this matter. It opened my eyes to a side of the organization I didn’t know existed,” she told AP.

Wimbish, who is not a BSO member, said the symphony’s decision to fire Skala is a good first step in making it a “more equitable place” for Baltimore, a majority-Black city.

David Mcfadden, The Associated Press

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