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Weekly Digest: New Restrictions

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you five important news stories from the world of media — and try to put them in a wider context.

The Trump administration plans to limit journalist visas to the US. The proposal put out by the government aims to cut the standard admission period from 5 years to just 240 days (potentially extended to 480 days). The change has not been implemented yet.

If implemented, the plan would be harmful to the United States in the long run, reducing America’s ability to “spread its story” and leading to retaliatory measures. In the short term, however, it would obviously negatively affect foreign – notably European – media outlets.

More from The Fix: Trump administration plans to restrict journalist visas to the US 

Nicaragua’s parliament approved the law prescribing prison sentences for spreading online misinformation. According to the legislation, “those who promote or distribute false or misleading information that causes alarm, terror, or unease in the public” will be subject to criminal liability.

The Special Cyber Crimes Law, as it’s called, has drawn criticism from human rights and press freedom groups, as well as from opposition politicians, for posing a threat to free speech. The law leaves it to the government to decide what information falls under its definition. 

More from The Fix: Weekly Digest: The State of Media Freedom 

Frequent readers of The Fix — or other publications about the media — will not be surprised to hear that press freedom has been in decline globally. However, a new study from the UK suggests that, as media freedom is worsening, the international community is paying less attention.

According to Press Gazette’s summary, “news coverage and Google searches of press freedom issues have fallen over the past 16 years”. Annual events trigger spikes in interest, and so do particularly grave assaults on press freedom (such as the murder of Jamal Khashoggi), but overall, attention is waning.

More from The Fix: The 2015 vs 2020 Changes in Press Freedom Rankings across the European region 

The BBC has restricted its journalists from sharing personal opinions. New social media guidance instructs the corporation’s employees not to “express a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics, or controversial subjects”, even in the form of likes and follows.

Besides, new rules tell BBC journalists not to participate in public demonstrations “about controversial issues”, even in their personal capacity. As The Guardian notes, it means staff are banned from joining LGBT pride marches.

The new restrictions come as the BBC’s new director general Tim Davie tries to counter the ruling Conservative Party’s accusations of left-wing bias which might pose a threat to the corporation’s development.

More from The Fix: BBC Annual Report Shows “Strong Year”, Need for More Reforms 

Debunking misinformation on social media is hard. One successful model to restrict the spread of fake news is “pre-bunking” — showing users accurate information on topics they might be misinformed on later. According to Axios, tech platforms are increasingly investing in pre-bunking ahead of the US presidential election.

The advantage of pre-bunking is that it is “a less polarizing way to address misinformation than trying to apply judgements to posts after they’ve been shared”. With the US in the middle of the election season, Facebook and Twitter have turned their eyes to supplying users with accurate voting information. Still, the benefits of pre-bunking go far beyond the American context — for example, studies show this practice is effective in countering anti-vaccination misinformation which has been spreading globally.

More from The Fix: Weekly Digest: All Eyes on the Platforms 

Bonus — Five more stories you might want to check out:

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