Organizers invited journalists to press ceremonial button following year of worrying developments for press freedom
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 highest-profile incident in a year for 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 the 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 revelers 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.”