December 15, 2017

Common Sense: The Disney-Fox Deal Has Friends in High Places

Even though antitrust decisions are supposed to be independent of political influence, Mr. Trump didn’t hesitate to weigh in as soon as the deal was announced. “I know that the president spoke with Rupert Murdoch earlier today, congratulated him on the deal and thinks that, to use one of the president’s favorite words, that this could be a great thing for jobs,” the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders Huckabee told reporters.

“It looks bad to me,” said Christopher L. Sagers, an antitrust professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Larry Downes, an antitrust expert and a fellow at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business, agreed. “The government’s theory in Time Warner very much applies to Fox and Disney,” he said. If the government “doesn’t challenge this, it will look very weird,” he added. “But I’m not sure appearances matter to this administration.”

The Disney-Fox deal is shaping up as another litmus test for President Trump’s new antitrust enforcement chief, Makan Delrahim, who is already under fire for taking ATT and Time Warner to court. Mr. Delrahim has said repeatedly that antitrust decisions are independent from political interference.

“I have never been instructed by the White House on this or any other transaction under review by the antitrust division,” he said of the ATT case.

That’s unlikely to stop speculation about his division’s handling of the latest blockbuster. Antitrust experts told me this week that in many ways the Disney-Fox deal raises even more antitrust questions than does the combination of ATT and Time Warner. That’s because it’s both a merger of direct competitors — a so-called horizontal merger, which typically get close scrutiny — and has some of the same vertical elements that caused the Justice Department to try to block the ATT-Time Warner merger.

Whether a combination of the Fox film and television studios with Disney’s entertainment arm would raise red flags under Justice Department guidelines depends on how the government defines the market. The deal would reduce the number of Hollywood studios to five from six. Last year, Disney’s studio accounted for 26.4 percent of the domestic theatrical box office, the largest share, and Fox was third, with 12.9 percent. Although the combined studios would have had close to 40 percent of the market in 2016, that’s typically not enough to run afoul of the department’s merger guidelines, Mr. Sagers pointed out, unless the government decides to define the market differently.

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If the market is as narrow as films about superheroes, and Disney gains control of Fox’s “X-Men” franchise, that would almost surely trigger concerns.

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Randall Stephenson, left, the ATT chairman, and Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner chairman and chief executive, at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the proposed merger of their companies, which the government is trying to block. Credit Evan Vucci/Associated Press

There are more serious antitrust issues about Fox’s regional sports networks, given ESPN’s dominance of cable sports. If that market is measured by cable sports revenue, the Disney-owned ESPN is so dominant that nearly any acquisition of another cable sports provider, even Fox’s relatively small regional networks, would trigger antitrust review.

“From a horizontal perspective, sports is the main issue,” said Scott Hemphill, a law professor and antitrust expert at New York University School of Law.

If the Justice Department really wanted to be aggressive, it might also invoke the words of former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who wrote in a landmark opinion, “The widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public.”

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Under terms of the proposed deal, Fox shareholders would own about 25 percent of Disney in an all-stock transaction. Given the concentrated market for cable news, a combination of Fox News and Disney’s ABC would likely not have passed antitrust muster. But depending on how much influence the Murdochs are able to exert at Disney, the family might achieve much the same objective, perhaps with a board seat, or, as some have speculated, if James Murdoch joins Disney as an executive and even becomes a potential successor to the Disney chief executive, Robert Iger.

Such speculation may not be all that far-fetched. “Reports suggest that James Murdoch is apparently in line for a senior management role within Disney as part of the deal,” said Doug Creutz, senior media and entertainment analyst for Cowen Co. in a note to clients Thursday.

Mr. Iger said during a conference call Thursday that James Murdoch’s future role, if any, hasn’t been decided.

Mr. Hemphill, the law professor and antitrust expert, pointed to an emerging antitrust doctrine called common ownership, which looks beyond the formality of separate companies to examine who actually exerts control.

All those concerns are based on traditional antitrust review standards. But since the case against ATT and Time Warner was filed, those standards have been anything but traditional.

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Vertical mergers like that of ATT and Time Warner — ATT buys content from Time Warner, but doesn’t compete directly with it — used to be approved almost routinely, albeit often with conditions. No longer. “We’re in a topsy-turvy antitrust world,” Mr. Downes said.

One of the government’s main concerns in its effort to block the ATT deal, according to its complaint, is the risk that ATT would withhold Time Warner content from rival distributors such as Netflix, thus hurting consumers.

But Disney, as it prepares to start its own direct-to-consumer Netflix rival, is already withholding some of its content, and has said it would withhold much more as existing agreements expire. It will almost surely pull 21st Century Fox content, like “X Men,” the planned “Avatar” sequels and TV shows like “The Simpsons” and “The Americans,” and offer them on its own service.

Mr. Downes said he doesn’t see how the Justice Department would distinguish between the two deals, should it approve the Fox-Disney transaction.

How Mr. Delrahim and the antitrust division handle the Fox-Disney review remains to be seen, of course. But whatever he decides, the shadow of Mr. Murdoch will loom large.

“I hesitate to make any predictions about Trump and what he’ll do,” Mr. Sagers said. “But there’s a long tradition that the White House shouldn’t get involved in these decisions.”

He said he was “reluctant to believe” that Mr. Delrahim would allow political considerations or Mr. Trump’s friendship with Mr. Murdoch to influence his decision — “but maybe I’m being naïve.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/business/media/antitrust-disney-fox.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Stuart Evey, a Founding Force at ESPN, Is Dead at 84

“Stu was skeptical, and he was constantly trying to figure out what might go wrong,” Mr. Rasmussen said in a telephone interview. “But he was a sports enthusiast, and it would be a feather in his cap if it turned out well.”

Mr. Evey persuaded the Getty board to invest $10 million in ESPN for an 85 percent stake, with Mr. Rasmussen and his family owning the rest. It was a critical investment. The network went on the air on Sept. 7, 1979, and eventually became the largest force in sports media.

But something more than a willingness to take a risk attracted Mr. Evey to the ESPN proposal.

By the time Getty invested in ESPN, Mr. Evey had been at the company for 20 years. He had built his career largely around that of George F. Getty II, one of the billionaire J. Paul Getty’s five sons. As George Getty’s administrative assistant and then his executive assistant, Mr. Evey was given a privileged view of the oil business and close-up exposure to his boss’s drinking and depression.

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Stuart Evey, right, with ESPN’s president, Bill Grimes, center, and the network’s production chief, Scotty Connal, at company headquarters in Bristol, Conn. in 1982. Credit Rick LaBranche

Because of his friendly relationship with George Getty, Mr. Evey became a protector, a kind of fixer; he thought of Mr. Getty as a brother who had “likely led me down the road to overindulgences that might have killed me if I hadn’t smartened up later in life,” he wrote in his memoir, “ESPN: Creating an Empire” (2004).

By 1972, Mr. Evey was officially vice president for Getty Oil’s diversified activities, which included commercial real estate, hotels, lumber mills, wine and farming. The job kept him close to George Getty.

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“A lot of times when I was with him, he would say, ‘Stu, one of my great hopes is to develop an operating company that doesn’t have my father’s name on it,’ ” Mr. Evey said in a lecture at Washington and Lee University in 2010.

Mr. Getty died of an overdose of alcohol, diet pills and barbiturates in 1973 in what was ruled a probable suicide, but Mr. Evey believed that owning ESPN would have satisfied his ambition to break away from his father.

“It was far removed from the core business of Getty,” he said.

Stuart Wayne Evey was born on Feb. 26, 1933, in Havre, Mont., and lived in nearby Chinook as a child. His father, Clare, was a railroad dispatcher and administrator; his mother, Evelyn, was a homemaker. The family later moved to Washington State.

Mr. Evey graduated from high school in Spokane and studied business at the University of Washington. He served in the Army honor guard in Berlin.

He joined Tidewater Oil, which was controlled by J. Paul Getty, as a management trainee in 1958 and remained with the company after it relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where it eventually merged into Getty Oil.

Mr. Evey worked in several capacities at Getty, but ESPN was his most high-profile project.

“I was laughed at in the company, in a kind of kidding way,” he was quoted as saying in “Those Guys Have All the Fun.” “They called it ‘Evey Sports Programming Network,’ not ESPN. My whole business reputation was on the line.”

As ESPN’s chairman, Mr. Evey hired Chet Simmons from NBC to be the network’s first president; helped make rights deals with the N.C.A.A. and the United States Football League; sold a 10 percent stake in the network to ABC in 1982 (at a point where Getty’s investment in ESPN had reached $55 million); and quixotically, if briefly, pursued the rights to televise the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

“He was not at all easy to get along with,” Mr. Rasmussen said. “We were three people going in different directions: Stu, Chet and me. Stu got Chet to come on board with the guarantee that I wouldn’t interfere, which led to my demise.”

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Mr. Rasmussen left in 1980, and Mr. Simmons, in 1982, moved to another start-up, the ultimately short-lived United States Football League, as its first commissioner.

Two years later, Mr. Evey was out after Texaco acquired Getty for $10 billion and sold its stake in ESPN to ABC for $188 million.

Mr. Evey said he was stung by the abruptness of his departure from ESPN — which also concluded his 26 years at Getty.

“The thing was, it was really beginning to shine,” he said of the network in an interview with KHQ-TV in Spokane in 2007. “I was hurt about that. Here’s the one thing I shepherded through that people said couldn’t happen.”

ESPN was not his only television venture for Getty. In 1980, he was involved in a Getty partnership with several Hollywood studios in Premiere, a proposed pay-TV network that was planning to compete against HBO, Showtime and the Movie Channel.

But Premiere never started. The Justice Department opposed the venture, and a federal judge issued an injunction, saying that the government was likely to prove that it would violate antitrust laws.

In the decades since, Mr. Evey served as a management consultant and as a director on corporate boards.

In addition to his daughter Christine, Mr. Evey is survived by his wife, the former Mary Dailey; another daughter, Susan Glamuzina; and three grandchildren. His first marriage, to Shirley Kinne, ended in divorce. She died in 2006.

Mr. Evey remained proud of his part as a founder of ESPN.

“There’s absolutely no way Getty would have gone into ESPN without me. None,” he said in “Those Guys Have All the Fun.”

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He added: “I was given the opportunity to take the risk for past performance, perhaps, but also for personal relationships. I did this primarily because I thought George Getty would’ve liked it.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/obituaries/stuart-evey-a-founding-force-at-espn-is-dead-at-84.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

‘Are You Normal?’ Putin Asks U.S. Congress in Annual News Gathering

“This is all made up by people who oppose Trump to make his work look illegitimate,” Mr. Putin said, adding that there is a “deep state” in the United States that fosters hostility toward Moscow: “Do they want to ban all contact?”

Asked to assess Mr. Trump’s record, he said that was up to the American people, but noted some “serious achievements.”

“Look at the markets, how they went up; that speaks about investors’ trust in what he does,” said Mr. Putin.

He also held out hope that Mr. Trump would keep his campaign promise to improve ties with Moscow, repeating that there were many areas of common concern, such as terrorism, Afghanistan and the spread of nuclear weapons.

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The buffet table at Mr. Putin’s annual news conference, which he used to promote his presidential campaign and to jab the United States. Credit Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

On North Korea, also known as the Democratic Republic of North Korea, Mr. Putin mocked Congress for condemning Russia while seeking its help.

“You are interesting guys,” the president said with a smirk. American lawmakers appear to be good-looking, well dressed and smart, he said, but they “are placing us on the same shelf with D.P.R.K. and Iran while simultaneously pushing Trump toward solving the North Korean and Iran nuclear problems through joint efforts with us. Are you normal at all?”

A few Russian journalists from the independent press managed to ask serious questions on issues like the absence of political competition, the lack of rule of law and government favoritism toward Putin cronies. Mr. Putin inevitably sidestepped them.

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He did sometimes concede there were problems, but invariably laid the blame somewhere outside the Kremlin walls. The Olympic doping scandal was one such topic.

Mr. Putin, who cut his teeth as a K.G.B. spy, suggested that Grigory M. Rodchenkov, the whistle-blower who revealed the state-backed Russian doping program, had become a hostage of the F.B.I. after fleeing to the United States.

“What are they doing with him?” Mr. Putin said. “What drugs are they giving him to make him say what they want him to say?”

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On domestic matters, interest was focused on the presidential election, which Mr. Putin is expected to win handily.

One of his opponents, Ksenia A. Sobchak, attended the news conference in her role as a leading journalist for the independent television channel Dozhd, saying it was her only chance to ask him a question since he refused to debate.

Ms. Sobchak said that being an opposition candidate in Russia meant being jailed or worse, and cited the case of Aleksei A. Navalny, who has been repeatedly harassed through physical attacks and what he calls politically motivated court cases and convictions that make him ineligible to run.

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The journalist Ksenia A. Sobchak, one of Mr. Putin’s opponents, asking a question of Mr. Putin during the news conference. Credit Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

“Is the government literally afraid of genuine competition?” she asked.

To this and another question, Mr. Putin said that Russia should have a competitive electoral system and that the lack of support for the opposition was not because of repression but their own actions.

“It is important to not just make noise out there on public squares or behind the scenes, and talk about a regime that is against the people,” he said. “It is important to offer something, some improvement.”

Mr. Putin compared Mr. Navalny to Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia who became a figure in the Ukrainian opposition and has been making a spectacle of himself at anticorruption protests in Kiev in recent weeks.

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“The people you mention are Saakashvilis; you want them to destabilize the situation in the country?” said Mr. Putin, who avoids mentioning Mr. Navalny by name. “I am sure that the majority of Russians do not want this and won’t allow this to happen.”

The annual news conference is the main chance for journalists from all across Russia to come to Moscow to try to ask the president a question, and every year it becomes a little more chaotic, with some 1,640 journalists accredited this year. Those attending were jammed into one auditorium trying to attract Mr. Putin’s attention by screaming, and many waved signs naming their region or issue.

Republic.ru, a online magazine, said the event had become such a bore that it refused to cover it this year and offered readers a 50 percent discount on subscriptions while it was happening.

One of the few electric moments occurred when the owner of a fish plant in the northern city of Murmansk was called on. After admitting that he had lied about being a journalist, he made an impassioned plea for the president to rescue his industry.

At another point, scanning the room, Mr. Putin started to answer a question about the lack of competition in the presidential election by noting that somebody was holding up a sign saying “Bye-bye Putin.”

The woman holding it explained that it was actually “Babay Putin,” Grandpa Putin in the language of the ethnic Tatar minority, and she asked about its preservation.

“Ah, babay,” said Mr. Putin. “My vision does not seem to be getting any better with age.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/world/europe/vladimir-putin-media.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Will Return for Season 10


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Larry David, left, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The show has been renewed for a tenth season. Credit John P. Johnson/courtesy of HBO

In September, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” cast member Jeff Garlin slyly told Seth Meyers that the odds of the show returning for a tenth season were “49 percent.” That number is now closer to 100: HBO announced that “Curb” has been renewed for another season, with production resuming in the spring.

“As I’ve said many times, when one has the opportunity to annoy someone, one should do so,” Larry David, the creator and star of the series, said in a statement.

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” returned to HBO this fall after a six-year hiatus. The season followed Larry’s attempts to stage the musical “Fatwa!,” about the Ayatollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa in 1989 ordering Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie after the release of his novel “The Satanic Verses.” Lin-Manuel Miranda played an exaggerated version of himself, and Mr. Garlin, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove, Cheryl Hines and Richard Lewis all returned to their roles.

A premiere date for the next season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has yet to be announced.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/arts/television/curb-your-enthusiasm-season-10.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Morgan Spurlock: ‘I Am Part of the Problem’

In his post, he reflected on the details of an encounter that he had when he was a student in college. In that account, he said he “hooked up” with a woman who later wrote a short story for a class about it, accusing him by name of rape.

He said he was “floored” when a friend told him about the woman’s short story. “This wasn’t how I remembered it at all,” he said.

He said that the two went back to his room after a night of drinking. In his account, he said they “started having sex” although she had pushed him off while “fooling around” and saying she did not want to.

At one point the woman started to cry.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Mr. Spurlock wrote. “We stopped having sex and I rolled beside her. I tried to comfort her. To make her feel better. I thought I was doing O.K., I believed she was feeling better. She believed she was raped. That’s why I’m part of the problem.”

In recent months, multiple women have come forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment, particularly after The New York Times and The New Yorker published reports in October about numerous harassment, sexual assault and rape allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Amid a relentless series of revelations, many high-profile men in the entertainment, news media, restaurant and other industries have been fired or forced to resign. Men in the movie and restaurant business have had projects canceled or suspended.

Mr. Spurlock appears to be an unusual case because he has opened up about his behavior before any public accusation. A representative said in an emailed statement on Thursday that Mr. Spurlock had no further comment.

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Mr. Spurlock also said in his statement that about eight years ago, he settled a sexual harassment allegation for calling his assistant “hot pants” or “sex pants” from across the room in the office.

“Something I thought was funny at the time, but then realized I had completely demeaned and belittled her to a place of non-existence,” Mr. Spurlock wrote.

“So, when she decided to quit, she came to me and said if I didn’t pay her a settlement, she would tell everyone. Being who I was, it was the last thing I wanted, so of course, I paid. I paid for peace of mind. I paid for her silence and cooperation. Most of all, I paid so I could remain who I was.”

He said he had been unfaithful to every wife and girlfriend that he has had. “Over the years, I would look each of them in the eye and proclaim my love and then have sex with other people behind their backs,” he wrote. “I hurt them. And I hate it. But it didn’t make me stop.”

In his post, Mr. Spurlock tried to examine the reasons for his actions. He said he was sexually abused as a boy and as a teenager, which he only told his first wife about because he was afraid of “being seen as weak or less than a man.”

“Is it because my father left my mother when I was child? Or that she believed he never respected her, so that disrespect carried over into their son?”

He also said he struggled with daily depression and had been consistently drinking since the age of 13.

Mr. Spurlock said that he hoped, by openly admitting what he had done, that he could change for the better. “I’m finally ready to listen,” he said.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/arts/morgan-spurlock-sexual-misconduct.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Is Christmas a Religious Holiday? A Growing Number of Americans Say No


Who celebrates, and how

Ninety percent of Americans celebrate Christmas in some form, a figure that has “hardly budged at all” since its survey in 2013, the center said.

Fifty-six percent of Americans believe that the religious elements of Christmas are emphasized less now than they were in the past, but only 32 percent of Americans say that development bothers them either “a lot” or “some,” according to the study.

In 2017, 55 percent of Americans said they celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, including 46 percent who saw it primarily as a religious holiday and 9 percent who said it was both religious and cultural. Thirty-three percent celebrated it as primarily a cultural holiday, the study said.

Four years ago, 59 percent of Americans said they celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, including 51 percent who said it was primarily religious for them and 7 percent who treated it as both religious and cultural. At the time, 32 percent said they celebrated it primarily as a cultural holiday.

The changes in attitudes are reflected in how people said they planned to spend their time during Christmas.

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Kelly Huerta portrays Mary and her son Michael portrays baby Jesus in a Christmas pageant in Frackville, Pa. Credit Jacqueline Dormer/Republican-Herald, via Associated Press

In 2013, 86 percent of celebrants said they would spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with loved ones, and 54 percent said they would attend a religious service. That declined in 2017 to 82 percent who said they would spend the holiday with family or friends and 51 percent who said they planned to attend a religious service.

The Bible story

The most seismic change captured by the survey, from a theological standpoint, may be the declining number of people who said they believed the biblical story of Christmas accurately reflected historical events.

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The survey asked respondents about their belief in four parts of the biblical Christmas story: that an angel heralded the birth of Jesus; that it was a virgin birth; that wise men were guided to baby Jesus by a star; and that he was placed in a manger.

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Only 57 percent of Americans believe in all four, down from 65 percent in 2014. There were two factors that contributed to the trend, researchers said. One was that atheists and the religiously unaffiliated appeared even less likely now than in the past to believe the story of Jesus’ birth. The second was “a small but significant decline” of roughly 5 percent “in the share of Christians who believe in the Christmas narrative contained in the Bible.”

Merry Christmas?

President Trump has turned the phrase “Merry Christmas” into a political battle cry, claiming that the greeting is being drummed out of public life by politically correct alternatives like “Happy Holidays and the seasonal design choices of corporations like Starbucks.

[ALSO READ: Starbucks Is Criticized for Its Holiday Cups]

He has often told supporters that under his presidency “we will be saying Merry Christmas again.” But most Americans don’t really care, according to the survey results.

Fifty-two percent said it did not matter to them what kind of holiday greeting was used by people or businesses, and only 32 percent said they prefer to be greeted with “Merry Christmas.”

Answers to that question differed along party lines. Roughly half of Republicans prefer to hear “Merry Christmas,” compared with 19 percent of Democrats. Sixty-one percent of Democrats said they don’t care what holiday greeting people use, while only 38 percent of Republicans agreed.

Holiday displays

There has also been a move toward the secular on the question of whether religiously themed holiday displays, like Nativity scenes, can be displayed on public property, like town halls and public schools.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union oppose such displays, calling them a violation of the separation of church and state, but two-thirds of Americans say they do not see a problem with them, according to the poll results.

But the number of respondents who said Christian displays should be allowed on their own, without symbols of other religions, like a Menorah, declined by 7 percentage points since 2013, to 37 percent from 44. The number of Americans who oppose religious displays on public property has grown to 26 percent from 20 percent in the same time period, the study said.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/13/us/christmas-less-religious.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Website Helps Movie and TV Fans Keep Track of Hollywood’s ‘Rotten Apples’

On Rotten Apples, an “individual” is defined as a cast member, screenwriter, executive producer or director.

For example, a search for volumes one and two of “Kill Bill” turns up results for the brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, both executive producers.

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The four creators of Rotten Apples, from left: Justice Erolin, Annie Johnston, Bekah Nutt and Tal Wagman. Credit Ling Ly

Dozens of women have claimed that Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them. While Harvey Weinstein has admitted that his behavior “has caused a lot of pain,” he denies that he sexually assaulted women. His brother, Bob Weinstein, has admitted to participating in some payoffs to some of his brother’s accusers and denied others.

A search for “House of Cards” turns up a result for Kevin Spacey, who faces sexual misconduct allegations — he apologized for one incident and has not responded to other claims. Netflix has since halted production on “House of Cards.”

The tool is purely informational and is not intended to condemn entire projects, said Mr. Wagman, who likened it to Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB.

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“We’re definitely not advocating for boycotting anyone’s films,” he said. The team instead wants the tool to help people make “ethical media consumption decisions.”

Bekah Nutt, a user-experience designer at Zambezi and a team member, hopes that the tool can shed light on how pervasive the problem of sexual misconduct is.

“It became interesting to think about the wide-reaching careers of those facing allegations,” she said. “Every article would spotlight the big projects everyone knows about.” This tool, she said, allows users to see “the full-range of their careers.”

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As the dominoes inevitably continue to fall, the creators of Rotten Apples hope to perpetually update the website. Still, they anticipate that the site may eventually be forced to shut down. “We don’t know the wide-ranging legal power that supports Hollywood,” Mr. Wagman said, adding that they are reassured by the fact they are only linking to reputable news organizations.

But the downside of that, they admit, is that it narrows the database to bigger names.

Ultimately, they hope the tool allows media consumers to not grow desensitized.

“Every day, there’s more and more allegations that are coming to light, it’s really important that we don’t tune out and normalize this,” said Annie Johnston, associate creative director at Zambezi and a team member. “That’s why we want to keep the site up.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/13/business/media/rotten-apples-sexual-misconduct.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Year in Stuff

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Dec. 13, 2017

It was a year that felt like a decade: 2017 saw the arrival of a new president (and an at-the-ready resistance movement), the unsealing of long-held silences on abuse and consent, a radically new world order and a terrifying spate of natural and human-made disasters (fire, water, terror).

It was also a year full of stuff. Fashion and commerce don’t grind to a halt even in troubling times, and the designers and retailers of the fashion world responded to turmoil as usual. They invented, rebranded, up-marketed and revitalized. It was a year that gawked at stilettos and embraced ugly sneakers; when an advocacy hat was met with an activism hat; when makeup and a glossy magazine offered a new chance at inclusion; when luxury looked to the bargain basement; and when a lion of the industry, a man seemingly out of his own times, left us too soon.

What a long, strange year it has been. Here are the pieces that defined it: what we wore, we carried, wanted, feared and waited for.

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The anti-Trump resistance found its emblem in a modest hat.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The ‘Pussy Hat’

If the signal political fashion item of 2016 was the Make America Great Again cap — a Republican-red telegraph of support for Donald J. Trump, more instantly legible than any other accessory of a brutal, knockdown presidential race — it found its opposite in the “pussy hat,” the unofficial headgear of the anti-Trump resistance.

When women’s marches took to the streets in Washington and cities around the country on Jan. 21, many marchers were crowned with knitted pink cat-eared beanies, their patterns freely distributed online and their production crowdsourced by the Pussyhat Project in a viral knitting campaign of solidarity and support for women’s rights.

By the following month, the hats had made their way onto the fashion runway, when Angela Missoni put her own version on each model in the Missoni show. But, then, the MAGA hat made its way into fashion, too, as New York designers worked to twist it to their preferred causes: “Make America New York,” read Public School’s; “Make America Marc Again” was Marc Jacobs’s.

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Calvin Klein’s white briefs, a company totem for decades, became a symbol of the tweaks and minute innovations of Raf Simons, the label’s new chief creative officer.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Calvin Klein Briefs

Could Raf revive Calvin? That was the question that quickened the fashion industry’s pulse as 2017 began. Raf Simons, one of the most idolized designers of his generation (and the rare one on whose merits fashion critics and rappers could easily agree), had been tipped to take over the listing house of Calvin Klein from nearly the moment he stepped down from his previous post at Christian Dior in 2015.

He was named the company’s chief creative officer in August 2016, but it wasn’t until this year that Mr. Simons’s plans for the label were finally made plain. His first ad campaign, released in January, presented a few new designs (from the custom By Appointment line) alongside one of the building blocks of Calvin Klein’s multi-billion-dollar empire: a plain pair of white cotton underpants.

They still have pride of place in the company mythology, not to mention the company shop — they hang, each on its own individual hanger, at the renovated and repainted Calvin Klein boutique on Madison Avenue — but they have been minutely adjusted à la Raf, from the logo to the brand name (which now includes 205W39, the address of the company headquarters). Bigger changes would come with his shows, but with the Calvin Klein briefs, Mr. Simons began a sea change in centimeters.


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The upselling of the everyday reached its apogee with a $2,145 Balenciaga shopper whose shape, form and color mimicked the 99-cent Frakta bag from Ikea.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Ikea Frakta

In April, a $2,145 Balenciaga bag briefly arrested the fashion world’s attention for its marked resemblance to a much more affordable option: the 99-cent polypropylene Frakta bag available by the bin-load at Ikea.

It was only the latest example of the luxury fashion industry finding inspiration in the workaday stuff of everyday life, but it crystallized the coy cross-pollination between luxury goods and basic essentials, and made clear that influence trickles up as well as down. (It seemed only right that Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia should be the one to bring it to the fore, who rose to notoriety designing a high-end DHL T-shirt for his Vetements label.) An Ikea executive told the website Highsnobiety that Ikea was “extremely flattered.”

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CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Manolo Blahnik Pump

You shall know them by their shoes. The first lady, Melania Trump, whose fashion choices have been scrutinized, pilloried and praised throughout her first year in the White House, stoked no more ire on both sides of the political spectrum than with a pair of Manolo Blahnik classic pumps. When Mrs. Trump accompanied her husband to Texas for a briefing on the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey, she was photographed heading to Air Force One in a pair of stiletto heels like these.

Few choices have brought into starker relief the complicated dynamics of Mrs. Trump’s fashion choices, which, in the absence of many public statements, often are read as the clearest indication of her character. An incensed branch of left-leaning Twitter called her out of touch and insensitive; her supporters on the right declared her elegant and the opposition “fake news.”

That she had changed into a more practical pair of white sneakers by the time the presidential plane landed in Corpus Christi seemed hardly to matter. Nearly a year into the Trump presidency, it’s still not clear: Is the first lady a glamorous icon (“transitioning us into a kind of bitch-goddess ultra-femininity,” as the fashion critic for Breitbart News has put it), or is she Marie Antoinette?

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CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The New British Vogue

Amid hand wringing and cost cutting at many major magazines, there was a genuine excitement in 2017 around the rebirth of British Vogue. After months of speculation, the editorship went to Edward Enninful, both the first man and the first black editor to run the British edition of Vogue. From his appointment in April until his first issue appeared in November, there was speculation as to what Vogue would look like remade in his image, and when it did arrive, was feverishly sought, snapped and discussed — the year’s must-have accessory, more so than most any shoe or bag.

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Azzedine Alaïa Vienne Vague Mini laser-cut leather belt, $1,410, at net-a-porter.com.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Best of Azzedine Alaïa

Azzedine Alaïa was not the only titan of fashion who died in 2017 — there was Pierre Bergé, the longtime partner and booster of Yves Saint Laurent, and S.I. Newhouse Jr., under whose decades of stewardship Condé Nast became nearly synonymous with glossy fashion magazines — but few deaths rocked the system like his. The designer was felled suddenly, of a heart attack, in November.

Monsieur Alaïa, as he was known, bent the usually rigid fashion system to his own pleasure (he showed his collections when he pleased) and kept his own course even as his competitors rose and then fell on a tide of trends. He had become, over many years, a permanent fixture in fashion, forever stationed in his atelier in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, dressed in Chinese pajamas. There, surrounded by dogs and loyal assistants, he fitted his designs on supermodels (Naomi Campbell called him “Papa”) and pop stars (Lady Gaga could sometimes be seen dropping in for dinner), and created the clothes and accessories that would end up on women the world over. They were strong, intricate, unassuming, feminine — less meant to hold women in than hold women up.

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CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Supreme T-Shirt

Week after week, they came and they waited, lining up for the latest from the fiercely independent New York skate label Supreme. And though the goods were neither new (it was founded in 1994) nor particularly novel (Supreme, which generally does not identify its designers, hadn’t swerved particularly in its aesthetic or its approach), the fashion world of 2017 took rabid interest.

Other brands and retailers experimented with Supreme-style weekly product “drops.” A secret summer collaboration with Louis Vuitton, announced from its men’s runway in January, became so instantly infamous that it barely, if ever, made it to stores, all the while stoking rumors that LVMH, Vuitton’s parent company, was about to invest. Those rumors proved false — it was the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, that ultimately bought a stake in Supreme, in a reported $500 million deal that valued the company at over $1 billion, a formerly scrappy stalwart still best known for $40 T-shirts turned prospective cash cow.

The deal effectively ratified the creeping influence of street wear and skate wear into fashion and the broader retail culture, and the appetite to tap its still-burgeoning potential, even as it bred resentment among some of the brand’s longtime loyalists, who grumble that their idol has sold out.

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Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, $34 at fentybeauty.com.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna

If fashion and fashion imagery in 2017 remained overwhelmingly and unsettlingly white, there was at least the small consolation that the needle is moving — however slowly — toward diversity and inclusiveness. “The numbers really jumped this year,” said Jennifer Davidson, the editor of The Fashion Spot, a website that compiles diversity reports on the runway shows, and found an uptick in minority models, plus-size models, transgender and nonbinary models, and models over 50.

Imagery and representation is one thing; product and real-world change is another. In a year in which inclusivity became a central topic of conversation, the release that had the most impact may have been the debut of a makeup line by Rihanna. Fenty Beauty arrived this fall with no fewer than 40 different shades of foundation. “We’re all just, like, giddy over here,” Julee Wilson, the fashion and beauty director of Essence, told The Chicago Tribune. “I knew that she was going to be thoughtful. You expect that from a woman of color coming out with a cosmetics line, but I was honestly shocked at how inclusive the line is.”

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CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Bathrobe

In a year pockmarked by sexual scandals, even familiar items took on an ominous cast. Grim details of sexual assault and harassment came out, one after another: unenclosed outdoor showers, veiled threats and, more than once, the formerly harmless bathrobe. There, in the accusers’ allegations, was Harvey Weinstein, holding hotel-suite business meetings in a white bathrobe, demanding sex; there was Charlie Rose, a onetime job seeker alleged to The Washington Post, changing into an open bathrobe for an after-midnight tour of his Bellport, N.Y., home.

Now that these details are lodged unhappily in the cultural consciousness, it’s hard to imagine slipping on a bathrobe without a shiver. But then, there has long been an association between robes and seaminess, ever since Hugh Hefner adopted his smoking jacket as a uniform, a public proclamation of libertinism. He didn’t live to see its stock fall: Mr. Hefner, bathrobe enthusiast, died just weeks before the Weinstein and Rose news broke.

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CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Off-White ‘Denim Jacket’

What if the most heat-seeking, most anxiously watched, most frantically influential designer of the year wasn’t a designer but a “designer”? Virgil Abloh, the interdisciplinary maestro of Off-White, who mixes fashion design, D.J.’ing, all-purpose creative direction (for people like his most famous employer, Kanye West), has single-handedly brought the quotation mark to the fore of the fashion lexicon.

There is very little Mr. Abloh won’t put between air (or scare) quotes: his denim jackets bear “denim labels,” his Air Jordan collaborative Nikes read, “Air,” his bags are tagged “Sculpture,” his boots “For Walking.” Mr. Abloh lathers on irony and pogo-ing referentiality, the lingua franca of the Instagram age.

It’s an approach that raises questions — “What Is Virgil Abloh?” asked the much-followed System Magazine, which made Mr. Abloh its cover star and cover story — and doesn’t offer easy answers. What it does offer, in high 2017 style, is sales, rumors of major job offers and big fans, like Naomi Campbell, who closed his women’s show in September, and Drake, with whom he collaborated on a performance at Art Basel this month.

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Louis Vuitton Archlight sneakers, $1,100, available this spring at select Louis Vuitton stores, louisvuitton.com.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The, Shall We Say, Unusual Sneaker

“Yes, These Sneakers Are Ugly,” read a recent headline in (of all places) The Wall Street Journal. “That’s The Point.” The sneaker trend, raging on for years, continued strong in 2017. The innovation this year, it seems, is that the uglier and more dad friendly, the better. After the reign of the minimalist white lace-up, and the revival of the once-again-ubiquitous Adidas Stan Smith, maybe a clunky, multicolored semi-monstrosity is the only thing that could clear the palette and the air.

Some of the homely clompers were originally or nominally made for men, like the Balenciaga Triple S, which quickly sold out, despite its $850 price tag. Nevertheless, women snapped them up, too, enough that at the women’s shows in October, they found their way onto the runway for Louis Vuitton, at the pinnacle of luxury politesse. (They were shown with 18th-century-style frock coats.) They were met with fashion-industry swoons. Will actual customers fork over $1,100 for a pair? Answer to follow this spring when they hit stores.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/13/fashion/the-year-in-stuff.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Race to Erase Kevin Spacey

“You can sit there and let something kill you, or you can take action,” Mr. Scott said in his no-nonsense way. “I took action.”

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Mr. Scott and others worked 18-hour days on the film as they rushed to finish in nine days what would typically have taken at least a month. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Over the last three months, sexual harassment scandals have impacted nearly every corner of Hollywood. As men like Mr. Spacey, Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. have been accused of vile behavior, entertainment companies have mostly responded by shelving or delaying movies and TV shows associated with them. In wake of the allegations against Mr. Spacey — he apologized for one incident and has not responded to other claims — Netflix halted production on “House of Cards” and abandoned “Gore,” a completed film starring Mr. Spacey as Gore Vidal.

Release plans were canceled for Louis C.K.’s film “I Love You, Daddy” after women told The New York Times that he masturbated in front of them. He later confirmed the accounts and has been trying to buy back the film’s rights. Fighting to stay afloat in the aftermath of sexual harassment and rape allegations against Mr. Weinstein, the Weinstein Company was forced to sell distribution rights to “Paddington 2,” delay a period film called “The Current War” and watch as television networks terminated contracts for planned series. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Weinstein has repeatedly denied “any allegations of nonconsensual sex.”

But “All the Money in the World” presented unique challenges. A trailer was already on heavy rotation in theaters. Awards prognosticators (nudged along by Sony publicists) had also been touting Mr. Spacey’s performance as Oscar worthy.

Sony and Imperative Entertainment, which produced and financed “All the Money in the World,” held a series of emergency meetings starting on Oct. 30, a day after Mr. Spacey apologized for making unwanted sexual advances toward the actor Anthony Rapp in 1986, when Mr. Rapp was 14. As more men came forward with similar allegations, outrage poured onto the internet, with some people vowing to organize a boycott of “All the Money in the World.” At that point, the movie’s scheduled premiere was two weeks away.

Hitting the pause button was the obvious move. But Thomas E. Rothman, Sony’s movie chief, said he was adamant that pushing back the release would tarnish the film even more. There was no better release window for a sophisticated drama than the Christmas holiday, the biggest ticket-selling period of the year. And they needed to stay ahead of a mini-series about the kidnapping in the works at FX.

It was decided that “All the Money in the World,” which also stars Michelle Williams as the kidnapped boy’s desperate mother and Mark Wahlberg as a Getty family fixer, would arrive on Dec. 22 as planned. (Sony eventually settled on Dec. 25.) “I didn’t think there was any solution,” Mr. Rothman said. “We would have to muddle through the best we could.”

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Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg agreed to work through Thanksgiving to refilm scenes with Mr. Plummer. Credit Sony

Sony marketers scrambled to shift gears. The studio had been leaning heavily on Mr. Spacey’s performance to generate interest for the film. The trailer climaxed with images of him as the elderly Getty, a transformation that required facial prosthetics and heavy makeup. But suddenly the studio’s messaging to entertainment journalists switched — Mr. Spacey’s role was only supporting, the real stars were Ms. Williams and Mr. Wahlberg. Sony also rushed to distribute new posters in theaters, replacing ones that played up Mr. Spacey’s character.

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A few days later, two of the film’s producers, Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas, unexpectedly arrived at Mr. Rothman’s office. They told him they were determined not to let the wrongdoings of one person damage a film that had been worked on by more than 800 people. And they floated an audacious idea that they had privately discussed with Mr. Scott: What about replacing Mr. Spacey with another actor? Mr. Plummer, perhaps.

“That would theoretically be fantastic,” Mr. Rothman said he responded. “But I have supervised 450 movies over the course of my career. And what you are saying is impossible. There is not enough time.”

The producers conceded that reworking the movie was risky. Even if executed perfectly, the plan would cost roughly $10 million, raising the total production budget to more than $50 million — a huge amount for a period drama aimed at older adults, especially considering that most of Hollywood has long left that market for dead.

But impossible? Not with the experienced and indefatigable Mr. Scott in the director’s chair, Mr. Friedkin maintained. “Twenty years from now, I want to be able to pull this film off the shelf and be proud of it,” Mr. Friedkin said.

This is where the story of “All the Money in the World” becomes about, as Mr. Rothman colorfully put it, “two octogenarians kicking absolute ass.”

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With Sony’s blessing, Mr. Scott sprang to action, convincing Mr. Plummer to take on the challenge. (Why Mr. Plummer? Mr. Scott had considered him during the initial casting process but went with Mr. Spacey for reasons that included scheduling.) The director said he did not tell Mr. Spacey that he was being replaced because Mr. Spacey had never contacted him to discuss the misconduct allegations.

“A phone call would have been nice,” Mr. Scott said. “At first I was disappointed. Then I was mad.” (He added that nothing in Mr. Spacey’s contract prohibited his replacement; he got paid.) Representatives for Mr. Spacey did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Scott, who called the assertions about Mr. Spacey’s behavior “shocking,” also managed to bring back Mr. Wahlberg and Ms. Williams, both of whom agreed to work through Thanksgiving due to the severe time constraint. Production on “All the Money in the World” resumed on Nov. 20 in London, with the cast and reassembled crew moving to Rome a few days later.

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The actual kidnapping had taken place in Italy. Operatives in the ’Ndrangheta crime syndicate held the teenage Getty hostage for five months, even chaining him to a stake in a cave. At one point, the kidnappers cut off Getty’s ear and mailed it to a Rome newspaper. He was ultimately released for a payment of roughly $3 million.

“It’s almost a grand documentary, a blow-by-blow look at how and why a family — one blessed with so much wealth — disintegrates into tragedy,” Mr. Scott said.

Since the original scenes had all been filmed on location, no sets needed to be reconstructed, saving a lot of time. Also making the situation more manageable: Mr. Plummer was nearer in age to the character, making it possible to forgo the kind of facial disguise that Mr. Spacey had donned.

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In a surprise, Mr. Plummer’s performance was nominated for a Golden Globe after voters saw a not-quite-finished version of the film. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

“There was no digital trickery required, either, contrary to the speculation,” Mr. Scott said. “A little bit of good-morning makeup and some front lighting and he was ready to go. It was quite simple.”

Mr. Plummer said that memorizing lines at lightning speed also turned out to be relatively easy. “Thank God for my training in the theater,” he said, adding that he soon forgot that he was replacing another actor. “Very quickly I put that completely out of my mind,” he said. (Mr. Plummer declined to comment about Mr. Spacey. “I’m not going to discuss him, because everything I have said so far has been misinterpreted,” he said. In November, Vanity Fair quoted Mr. Plummer as saying he felt “awfully sad” for Mr. Spacey.)

Long hours may have been their biggest challenge.

For nine days, Mr. Scott arrived at filming locations by 6:30 a.m. to eat a quick breakfast and finalize planned shooting angles with his longtime cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski. (Together, they have made six movies, including “The Martian,” which was nominated for best picture at the 2016 Academy Awards.) Filming usually continued straight through lunch. As sequences were shot — Mr. Scott typically does very few takes — footage was digitally shipped to the film’s editor, Claire Simpson, who would start stitching it together. In the evening, Mr. Scott would make adjustments.

“I’m kind of like a funny battery that never wears out,” he said.

Despite their efforts, “All the Money in the World” faces an uphill battle at the box office.

Multiplexes will be chockablock with competing movies, including “Downsizing,” a social satire starring Matt Damon; “The Greatest Showman,” an original musical starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum; and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Sony lost crucial weeks of marketing time as it waited for footage of Mr. Plummer to splice into a new trailer.

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Of course, the publicity generated by Mr. Scott’s race to scrub Mr. Spacey from the movie may prove helpful. The effort has been cheered online in some of the same forums where boycotts were brewing. “Mr. Scott is an inspiration!” wrote one commenter on EW.com.

And it is possible that Mr. Plummer, an Oscar winner for “Beginners” in 2012, turned in a performance that eclipsed the one given by Mr. Spacey. In a surprise, Golden Globe voters, who saw a not-quite-finished version of “All the Money in the World” last week, nominated Mr. Plummer for best supporting actor and gave nods to Mr. Scott for his directing and Ms. Williams for best actress.

“I think it’s a fantastic change,” Mr. Scott said. “Kevin’s performance was colder. Christopher has enormous charm — a twinkle and a smile — that makes this coldly logical character feel even more dangerous.”

Will the original version of “All the Money in the World” ever be released, perhaps on DVD, so that viewers can judge for themselves?

Mr. Scott let out a huff. “I doubt it,” he said.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/13/movies/kevin-spacey-all-the-money-in-the-world-christopher-plummer.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Arrests of Reporters in Myanmar Add to Fears About Press Freedom

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Dec. 13, 2017

YANGON, Myanmar — Two journalists with the Reuters news agency have been arrested in Myanmar and accused of illegally possessing government documents, news agencies reported on Wednesday.

The two reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were arrested Tuesday night in northern Yangon. They were said to have documents relating to violence in Rakhine State in western Myanmar. A campaign of killings, rape and arson carried out in Rakhine by Myanmar’s military has driven more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh since August.

“We are urgently seeking more information about the circumstances of their arrest and their current situation,” Abbe Serphos, global communications chief for Reuters, said of the reporters.

The United States Embassy called the arrests “highly irregular” and said they occurred after the reporters were invited to meet with police officials.

“For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely,” the embassy said in a statement. “We urge the government to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the journalists.”

News agencies said the reporters had been accused of violating Myanmar’s sweeping Official Secrets Act, which dates from 1923, when the country, also known as Burma, was under British rule. If so, the journalists could face up to 14 years in prison.

U Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council, an independent organization that advocates for the news media, said that between 80 and 90 percent of government documents were considered confidential or secret under the law.

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Mok Choy, right, and Lau Hon Meng, two journalists working in Myanmar for the Turkish state broadcaster, were sentenced to two months in prison in November for unauthorized use of a camera drone. Two more journalists were arrested on Tuesday, apparently under a secrecy law.CreditThet Aung/European Pressphoto Agency

“We are very concerned about the arrests of these two journalists,” he said. “Very few documents are public documents. We don’t have a freedom of information act in our country yet.”

He said that Parliament had considered modifying the law in 2014, but that the changes were opposed by the Home Affairs Ministry, which is under military control.

Reuters said that Wa Lone joined the news agency in June 2016 and has covered a range of stories, including the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine. Kyaw Soe Oo began working for Reuters in September.

Press advocates and human rights activists expressed concern that the arrests were part of a growing crackdown on press freedom in recent months.

In November, a judge sentenced two foreign journalists, their interpreter and their driver to two months in prison on charges of filming with a drone without official permission. The journalists, Mok Choy Lin, a Malaysian national, and Lau Hon Meng, a Singaporean citizen, were on assignment for TRT World, Turkey’s state broadcaster.

In June, the military arrested three journalists who had been reporting on an event organized by a rebel army in northern Shan State. The three were accused of violating another colonial-era law, against unlawful association. They were released after more than two months in custody.

“While the circumstances of the arrest of the two Reuters journalists remain unclear, their detention comes on the heels of the arrests of journalists in multiple parts of Burma under a variety of charges,” said Richard Weir, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.

“Three journalists arrested and later released in Shan State by the military earlier this year were merely arrested for doing their jobs,” he added. “Journalists across Burma have also come under increasing pressure for criticizing the government and military.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/13/world/asia/myanmar-rakhine-reporters.html?partner=rss&emc=rss