Times Square New Year party to cheer for press freedom
NEW YORK, Dec 30: Reporters will be the guests of honour at the New Year's Eve party in New York's Times Square on Monday, in what organisers said was a celebration of press freedom after an unusually deadly year for journalists at US news outlets.
Two attacks in particular weighed on organisers as they discussed in autumn whom to give the honour of initiating the ceremonial ball drop just before midnight, according to Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.
One was the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post, inside a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. The other was the mass shooting in June in the newsroom of The Capital, a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, in which five employees were killed.
"Throughout the year it's been a big issue," Tompkins said in an interview. "Times Square itself is the ultimate agora and public space," noting that the area 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".
Simon will be joined onstage by journalists from US and international news outlets. The button-pressing honour has in previous years gone to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, an Iraq War veteran, US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the singer Lady Gaga. -REUTERS