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Annual Staff Party Club Early Closing

News agencies more important than ever in fight against fake news

News agencies are needed more than ever to fight back against the ‘impoverishment’ of newsrooms around the world as a result of the growth of social media and fake news, according to the chairman of the world’s oldest agency.

AFP chairman, Fabrice Fries talked about the global role of news agencies in an era of fake news. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC AFP chairman, Fabrice Fries talked about the global role of news agencies in an era of fake news. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

While news organisations are struggling to find a profitable business model as the lion share of news consumption comes via the likes of Google and the big social networks, Agence France-Presse has found a surprising revenue stream–from Facebook. AFP was one of several agencies to sign a contract in 2017 with the social network giant to fact check any content on the platform that the news agency decides warrants verification.

During his appearance at the December 10 club lunch, AFP’s chairman, Fabrice Fries, said the fight against fake news had become a core component of the 183-year-old agency’s mission. He said the proliferation of news blogs that take chunks of content without permission had led to bona fide news organisations having to cut costs as they saw advertising revenue fall. For large players and news agencies, this increasingly meant scaling down operations abroad.

Fries further highlighted the impact of Big Tech on news organisations, criticising aggregators like Google and Facebook for hosting content published without the permission of the copyright holder then taking 90% of advertising revenue without offering any of it to the news outlets who produced the copy in the first place. “This means we’re being robbed twice…for our content and our revenues,” he said.

The collaboration with Facebook allows AFP to select whatever fake news it wants, and fact check it before publishing its results. Links to its fact checks appear alongside original posts on Facebook.

Watch the full talk.

President Donald Trump’s attacks on media ‘first step in silencing dissent’, says journalist

President Donald Trump’s war on the media is spurring violent supporters into action against his enemies, warns an American journalist.

Amy Wilentz on Trump: 'He's really a media whore at heart.' Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Amy Wilentz on Trump: ‘He’s really a media whore at heart.’ Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

On the day a report found that journalism is more dangerous than at any point in the last decade, journalist and professor of English, Amy Wilentz, said Trump’s jokes about killing journalists, and his penchant for labeling the media Enemies Of The People, were already casting a shadow over the industry. She fears that, should Trump lose the presidential election in 2020, violence would break out that could result in deaths.

“If he wins it’ll be fine – fine in the sense there will be no mass shootings or takeovers of polling places or murders of journalists covering the vote. But we all fear what could happen if he loses and begins whining and claiming fraud and suggesting all the kind of things he likes to suggest. Then there could be a wave of real violence, even an armed takeover of the executive branch of government. I’m not kidding, I’m not being a crazy person here,” she told the December 5 club lunch.

The professor in the literary journalism program at the University of California likened Trump to a dictator, adding that his Enemy Of The People label was “the first step in silencing dissent”.

She described Trump as “really a media whore at heart”, who thrived on attention and would tip off newspapers about himself before he became president. But journalists didn’t always take the bait, much to his annoyance, she said. “That’s why Twitter is like a godsend for this man. He doesn’t have to convince a gatekeeper to interview him, he just goes on and the public responds. It’s like an aphrodisiac to this kind of character. it provides him with the immediate ear of the public.”

But some areas of the media are playing a dangerous game in taking an editorial line and allowing a “certain tone” in their reporting of Trump.

“What this does, I fear, is to play into Trump’s narrative,” Wilentz added.

She said Trump was possibly the only person in the United States that believes Prince Mohammed (bin Salman) wasn’t involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, adding: “He calls the media the Enemy Of The People. That’s the most disastrous thing. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t care much that a journalist was killed and dismembered. Or maybe in private he applauds MBS’ assassination of Khashoggi.”

Watch the full talk here.

A Memorial Service for Barry Kalb

The U.S. Midterms: Panel of experts discusses implications for Trump and the Democrats

The Democratic Party will need to put forward a candidate who is extremely charismatic, a little outrageous but who can reach America’s white working class community if it is to get President Donald Trump out of the White House, according to a panel of political experts.

L-R: Frank Lavin, CEO and founder of Export Now; Nancy Hernreich Bowen, Senior Advisor at Teneo; and Stephen Olson, Research Fellow at the Hinrich Foundation. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC L-R: Frank Lavin, CEO and founder of Export Now; Nancy Hernreich Bowen, Senior Advisor at Teneo; and Stephen Olson, Research Fellow at the Hinrich Foundation. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Since the Democrats won around 40 House seats in November’s midterm elections–gaining control of the House but not the Senate–the beleaguered party has found itself in a position to use its new power to investigate Trump for his alleged involvement with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. The new powers give the Democrats the ability to subpoena and call witnesses if they choose to do so.

It’s unclear whether this will happen, and if it does, Trump would have to be found to have been involved in a crime to be impeached, said Frank Lavin, CEO, and founder of Export Now, during a panel discussion on the implications of the midterms.

Joining Lavin were Nancy Hernreich Bowen, Senior Advisor at Teneo; and Stephen Olson, Research Fellow at the Hinrich Foundation. All panelists have previous U.S. government experience.

Watch the full panel discussion.

FCC appalled at efforts to silence Philippines news website Rappler

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, is appalled at the ongoing efforts to intimidate and silence Rappler, a news organisation that has pushed to hold the government accountable despite repeated attacks from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

On Monday, Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa turned herself into authorities after a warrant was issued for her arrest on five charges of tax fraud. She paid bail and was ordered to return Friday for arraignment on charges that Rappler provided false information to tax authorities.

Outside the court, Ressa called the charges “manufactured” and “politically motivated.”

Earlier this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler’s operating license because it violated the country’s restrictions on foreign ownership of domestic media. The organisation has continued operating after an appellate court ordered the SEC to review its findings.

Rappler, which denies all wrongdoing, has defied Duterte’s threats and intimidation to expose corruption within the police force, which has led the deadly crackdown against drugs, as well as in government ranks.

Duterte has a long track record of going after his critics. Shortly after he was elected in 2016, he told reporters that some could be legitimately killed. “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” he said at the time.

Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for more than 30 years and has won multiple awards for her work–including the 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. She is a brave and powerful voice against injustice in a region where the powerful regularly seek to silence those who shine a light on misdeeds.

The FCC calls on authorities to respect due process in the case against Ressa, and support the right of Rappler and other media outlets to operate freely and safely. We also stand with Philippine media groups, including the National Union of Journalists and the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, in denouncing the efforts to intimidate Rappler.

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