Anti-vaccine groups used Telegram to send ‘apparent death threats’ to BBC journalists, report says

coronavirus mask protest london
Anti-lockdown protests in London.

  • Telegram users reportedly shared BBC journalists’ addresses and info in an anti-vaccination group.
  • BBC News asked staff to undergo training for handling “in-person” attacks, The Observer reported.
  • Attacks on reporters hit unprecedented levels in 2020, The Committee to Protect Journalists said.
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BBC News is said to have tightened its newsroom security after receiving threats against journalists from anti-lockdown or anti-vaccine groups.

The Observer reported that conspiracy groups on the messaging app Telegram had “swapped details of journalists, including their addresses, and have attempted to organise abuse.”

The report also quoted from a BBC staff memo sent out on Friday, which detailed the formation of an internal BBC group to study the safety of the news broadcaster’s employees.

BBC director of news and current affairs Francesca Unsworth said in a memo that staff should go through training for “in-person” attacks, according to the report.

“We know these attacks are more often aimed at women and journalists of colour, so we want to make sure we have particular support for those groups and are looking at what this could be,” Unsworth wrote.

Violence against journalists has been on the rise around the world, spurred in part by restrictions designed to slow the pandemic, according to Unesco.

That group published a report last September showing “a significant and growing threat to media freedom and freedom of access to information in all regions of the world.”

Attacks on US journalists have also hit “unprecedented” levels last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York nonprofit.

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Trump boasts that he’s ‘writing like crazy’ and working on ‘the book of all books’

Trump
Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on May 18, 2021.

  • Former President Donald Trump announced on Friday he’s writing a book.
  • “When the time comes, you’ll see the book of all books,” he said.
  • Presidents typically publish a memoir after they leave office.
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Former President Donald Trump on Friday announced a new personal project he’s working on: a book.

“I’m writing like crazy,” Trump said in a statement released through his leadership PAC, “and when the time comes, you’ll see the book of all books.”

Trump claimed he has turned down two book deals “from the most unlikely of publishers.” He did not provide any further details.

“I do not want to do such a deal right now,” he said.

Trump also teased he’s currently “working on a much more important project” but did not disclose more information.

Once an avid tweeter, Trump was booted from social media platforms Twitter and Facebook in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection on January 6. Facebook announced last week the company will uphold Trump’s ban until at least January 2023.

Trump now communicates to the public through his leadership PAC, dubbed Save America, regularly putting out short, strongly worded statements, similar to how he’d tweet. The former president also launched a blog, called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” which he shut down after less than a month.

Since he left the White House, Trump has reportedly met with several prominent journalists to conduct interviews for forthcoming books about his presidency.

“We are not discussing particulars of any individual book interviews that President Trump is giving but it’s safe to say that he remains the hottest name in politics and he’s the interview that everyone wants,” Jason Miller, Trump’s spokesperson, told Politico in March. “We’re tracking nearly three dozen post-presidency books where he will be the star.”

Former presidents typically release a memoir in the years after they leave office, providing big business for publishers. Barack Obama’s book, “A Promised Land,” was published in November and sold more than 3 million copies in its first month. George W. Bush’s memoir, “Decision Points,” came out in 2010 and became a New York Times bestseller.

Before he was commander-in-chief, Trump had his name on more than a dozen books related to real estate and business.

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Palestinian BBC journalist who tweeted that ‘Hitler was right’ is being investigated by the broadcaster

A screenshot of Tala Halawa's most recent BBC story
A screenshot of Tala Halawa’s most recent BBC story, published on May 23.

  • The BBC is investigating Tala Halawa – an employee who has worked on their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • An unearthed tweet from 2014 shows that Halawa had tweeted that “Hitler was right.”
  • Another social media post shows that Halawa called for Israel to be relocated to the US.
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The BBC is investigating a Palestinian employee who tweeted “#HitlerWasRight” during the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.

Tala Halawa, who began her work as a digital journalist at BBC Monitoring in 2017, wrote a string of anti-Israel and antisemitic posts before her employment at the world’s largest broadcast news organization.

In one tweet from July 2014, Halawa wrote: “#Israel is more #Nazi than #Hitler! Oh, #HitlerWasRight #IDF go to hell. #PrayForGaza.”

In another tweet, shared by pro-Israel media watchdog HonestReporting, Halawa wrote: “#Zionists can’t get enough of our blood.”

The Ramallah-based journalist, whose most recent report for the BBC on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was published last Sunday, deleted her social media accounts in the aftermath of her tweets being unearthed.

Tala Halawa tweet
A tweet from July 2014 by Tala Halawa that said “Zionists can’t get enough of our blood.”

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Halawa also posted controversial content on Facebook, according to HonestReporting, including an August 2014 graphic that called for the relocation of Israel to the United States.

Tala Halawa's post calls for Israel to be relocated to the US
Tala Halawa shared a graphic on Facebook in 2014 that called for Israel to be relocated to the US.

The BBC, Halawa’s employer, has strict guidelines on impartiality and social media conduct for its reporters.

“Nothing should appear on their social media accounts which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC,” the organization’s editorial guidelines on social media say.

A BBC spokesperson, who confirmed that Halawa is being investigated, clarified that the offending content was from before she was employed by them.

“Whilst these tweets predate the individual’s employment the BBC is taking this extremely seriously and is investigating the matter with urgency,” a BBC spokesperson told Insider. “We are clear there is no place for views like this to exist within the BBC and we deplore racism and antisemitism of any kind.”

The hashtag #HitlerWasRight has been used increasingly in recent weeks, Insider’s Sarah Al-Arshani wrote. The Anti-Defamation League said that between May 7 and May 14, more than 17,000 tweets could be found that used variations of the phrase.

This coincides with a sharp rise in the number of antisemitic incidents since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Insider reported.

Halawa’s investigation also follows the dismissal of Emily Wilder– a journalist who was fired from the Associated Press following tweets which the news agency said violated their social media policy.

Wilder, who is Jewish, said that she was not told which social media posts led to her termination. She has indicated that she believes she was fired because a group of college Republicans identified an old social media post in which she criticized the Israeli government in 2020, Insider’s Yelena Dzhanova reported.

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Tulsi Gabbard accused Lori Lightfoot of ‘anti-white racism’ after Lightfoot said she will only interview with journalists of color

Lori Lightfoot
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference in Hall A at the COVID-19 alternate site at McCormick Place in Chicago, Friday, April 10, 2020.

  • Chicago mayor Lightfoot said she would only be interviewed by reporters of color for the two-year anniversary of her inauguration.
  • “It’s a shame that in 2021, the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly White in a city where more than half of the city identifies as Black, Latino, AAPI or Native American,” Lightfoot said.
  • People on Twitter slammed Gabbard for using the term “anti-white,” which trended on the platform on Friday.
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Former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard accused Lori Lightfoot of “anti-white racism” after the Chicago mayor announced Wednesday that she would only be interviewed by minority reporters for the two-year anniversary of her inauguration, sparking backlash from press corps members and other politicians.

“I ran to break up the status quo that was failing so many,” Lightfoot, who is Black, tweeted Wednesday. “That isn’t just in City Hall. It’s a shame that in 2021, the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly White in a city where more than half of the city identifies as Black, Latino, AAPI or Native American.”

She added: “This is exactly why I’m being intentional about prioritizing media requests from POC reporters on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as mayor of this great city.”

Gabbard weighed in on Lightfoot’s decision on Friday, calling for Lightfoot’s resignation in response to her comments earlier this week.

“Mayor Lightfoot’s blatant anti-white racism is abhorrent,” Gabbard tweeted Friday. “I call upon President Biden, Kamala Harris, and other leaders of our county-of all races-to join me in calling for Mayor Lightfoot’s resignation. Our leaders must condemn all racism, including anti-white.”

Gabbard’s tweet trended on Twitter on Friday, with some users on the social media platform slamming the former congresswoman for using the term “anti-white.”

Lightfoot’s move also drew criticism from members of the press corps.

WMAQ-TV reporter Mary Ann Ahern, who is white, first tweeted about Lightfoot’s decision on Tuesday, later calling the move “outrageous” in an interview on WGN Radio.

“To choose a reporter based on the color of their skin is really pretty outrageous,” Ahern said, citing a report by USA Today. “Does she think I’m racist? Is that what she’s saying?”

Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt tweeted Wednesday saying he was granted an interview with the mayor but declined after her office refused to lift the condition.

“I am a Latino reporter @chicagotribune whose interview request was granted for today,” Pratt tweeted. “However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled.”

“Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them,” Pratt continued.

The Triibe, a Chicago-based digital news outlet aimed at “reshaping the narrative of Black Chicago,” according to its website, pushed back against the criticism directed at Lightfoot for prioritizing interviews with reporters of color.

“With this outrage, y’all are implying that Black and Brown journalists aren’t capable of asking the hard questions,” the media platform tweeted Wednesday, along with a photo of one of their reporters interviewing the Chicago mayor.

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