Common and John Legend
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Pulitzer Winner Wesley Morris Says He Has to Go There

"Last year's hacked dump of private emails stolen from Sony Pictures Entertainment employees included a much-reported exchange between the company's chairperson, Amy Pascal, and producer Scott Rudin, in which they joked about the kinds of movies President Obama might enjoy," Wesley Morris, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for criticism while at the Boston Globe, wrote for Grantland on Monday.

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It was perhaps the sharpest critique to emerge from Sunday's Academy Awards show along racial lines, from a critic who takes that approach sparingly.

"The choices were slave dramas or the comedies of Kevin Hart," Morris continued. "The exchange wasn't funny, but the participants seemed self-amused. What was dismaying about this LOL-fest was that it took place between two people with the power to expand the options. Also dismaying was how unremarkable and casually pervasive it seemed.

"Before Sunday's Academy Award broadcast, The Hollywood Reporter ran the preferences of a handful of anonymous Academy voters. One, labeled 'Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 9,' expressed dislike for Selma for its failure to give white characters favorable speaking parts, and then dismissed the movie — which is set in the United States of 1965 and centered around Martin Luther King Jr. — as a 'left-wing, modern, rap version' of history, as if describing Lin-Manuel Miranda's new stage musical, Hamilton.

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"Since the nominations in mid-January, the Academy has been pilloried with outrage and derision for featuring no actors of color among the 20 nominees and only two nominations for Selma. #OscarsSoWhite became a hashtag to place alongside #BlackLivesMatter. As a kind of apology, the Grammys last month ceded the broadcast's final musical performances to a tandem of Selma-oriented numbers featuring Beyoncé, Common, and John Legend. The songs were striking while seeming incongruous to the matter at hand.

"I hadn't planned to think about any of this during Sunday's show, an event I watch as a professional but generally enjoy as a civilian. An awards show isn't the forum to address racial grievances. The producers were smart in staging a diverse parade of stars. It's up to Hollywood to give them something to do.

"It's probable that Sean Penn's jesting green-card remark in announcing Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman as the best picture will be the night's most pungent insult. But the host, Neil Patrick Harris, seemed to embody the tenor of those emails and of Ballot No. 9's brutal honesty. He coated an already fatuous evening in glibness. It wasn't merely the subpar puns, shameful introductions, and careless jokes about the snubbed. It was the way he singled out Octavia Spencer to watch a briefcase that rested in a glass case on the stage (Harris's Oscar predictions) or asked David Oyelowo to stand and speak in his natural English accent.

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"Harris might have intended to boost these two into the pantheon of award-show sidekicks, to what Streep and Nicholson have always been. But Harris performs with bright, conceited entitlement. So when he approached Spencer and Oyelowo, he did so as a spoiled heir or a clueless boss. He turned them into employees and party tricks — and now a black British person!

"You can see what Harris was after, but his touch just left a stain. Steve Carell's comical rejection of him made sense: He's done the clueless-boss bit. And yet Harris persisted. In introducing Ben Affleck, he retitled Gone Girl, in which Rosamund Pike slits Harris open to kill him, Bitches Be Trippin’, Yo, as if a peon from The Office really were hosting the Academy Awards.

"Eventually, No. 9's worst, left-wing, modern, rap nightmare took the stage. Yes, it was Common and John Legend to do 'Glory,' their triumph of easy listening from Selma. Legend's singing and piano playing were even stronger than at the Grammys. I've listened to this song about 600 times, yet Common made me hear its lyrics anew. They were joined by a large, black, unrobed choir on a big set that featured a rendering of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

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"When it was over, Harris came on and said, 'Fan. Tastic. Performance' as though he were emceeing Star Search. He then immediately introduced the orchestra and music director Stephen Oremus, as if the only thing to chase 'Glory' with was a dose of Lawrence Welk. . . ."

Robert Caruso, HuffPost LatinoVoices: No, What Sean Penn Said Is Not Okay

Anthony Crupi, adage.com: Oscar Advertisers Paid Record Prices for a 15% Drop in Audience

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Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: A special Hollywood edition of 'That's not Racism'

ebony.com: Common, John Legend Score Oscar 'Glory'! [PHOTOS]

LZ Granderson, CNN: The Oscars take on inequality

Ioan Grillo, globalpost.com: How Mexicans became Hollywood’s best directors

Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Oscars? Here's the Emil for Best Minimal Presence by an Asian American in a Best Picture nominee

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Matt Hamilton, Los Angeles Times: Iñárritu calls for 'dignity and respect' for immigrants in Oscar speech

Peniel E. Joseph, The Root: In Their Moment of 'Glory,' Common and John Legend Showed the World Why the Selma Struggle Truly Is 'Now'

Rich Juzwiak, Gawker: Anchor Who Called Gaga's Music "Jigaboo": "I Had No Idea It Was a Word"

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Antonio Moore, HuffPost BlackVoices: The Black Male Incarceration Problem Is Real and It's Catastrophic

Carolina Moreno, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Latino Actors Weren't Snubbed At The Oscars — But That's Not A Good Thing

Tina Nguyen, Mediaite: Oscar Ratings Were Miserable; Sorry, Neil Patrick Harris

Prison-Slavery Comparison Doesn't Mean What It Seems (2011)

Rick Sanchez, Fox News Latino: What my son knows about the (white) Oscars and other things

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Katie Sanders, politifact.com: Fact-checking John Legend's claim that 'we live in the most incarcerated country in the world'

Blue Telusma, theGrio.com: Dear Patricia Arquette: Blacks and gays owe white women nothing

Jose Antonio Vargas and Janet Yang, Los Angeles Times: Hollywood's diversity problem beyond 'Selma': Asian, Latino stories are missing

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Jeff Yang, Wall Street Journal: How the Oscars Reflect Racial, Ethnic Divisions

Phil Yu, Angry Asian Man blog: Tom Cross Wins Oscar for Best Film Editing for 'Whiplash'

. . . What a Difference Four Years Makes

With rapper Common and singer John Legend honored by Hollywood for their award-winning "Glory" theme from the "Selma" movie, it's easy to forget that just four years ago, some in the media were deriding the Chicago rapper as a thug unworthy of appearing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

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"Despite the protestations of some media figures, a rapper performed in front of schoolchildren Wednesday evening at the White House," Dan Zak wrote for the Washington Post on May 11, 2011. "Somehow, the Earth kept turning. . . ."

Zak also wrote, "This week, Common was deemed a 'vile,' 'cop killer rapper' in headlines on Fox Nation, a Web site run by Fox News. Criticism sprang from other conservative fountainheads, including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (who tweeted her disapproval), the Daily Caller (which excerpted lyrics through which Common bemoaned police conduct and President George W. Bush's initiation of the war in Iraq) and Fox News anchor Sean Hannity (who Tuesday devoted 10 minutes of his show to what the network branded 'The Invitation'). . . ."

Gannett Down to One African American Top Editor

Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper company, once known as a leader in media diversity, will soon be down to one top African American editor.

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Jill Nevels-Haun, managing editor of the News-Messenger in Fremont, Ohio, and the News Herald in Port Clinton, Ohio, in her eighth year at the publications, was told Friday that she was not selected when employees reapplied for their jobs under a company directive.

Gannett operates 82 U.S. daily publications, including USA Today, and 443 non-daily local publications in 30 states and Guam.

Gannett is restructuring its news operation to provide the "newsroom of the future," partially explained to readers this way by Hollis R. Towns, executive editor and vice president of the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, N.J.:

"We are putting more resources into digital. -APP.com already is the leading news website in central and southern New Jersey, and we'll continue to grow our presence with new apps, such as our new apps for tablet, iPhone and Android and our Go Jersey Shore app that provides the latest information on things to do at the Shore and beyond.

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"We are flattening our management structure to be more nimble, with fewer hierarchical reporting lines and fewer managers. Reporters will be able to post to APP.com directly, cutting layers to give you the news more quickly and efficiently. Reporters will be empowered to roam for news and listen to you in a more self-directed way. The stories they write will be based on what you read and click on. . . ."

Towns will be the last remaining African American top editor within Gannett.

Nevels-Hahn told Journal-isms by telephone that she is hopeful that Gannett will find another role for her as an editor at a smaller paper or as a mid-level editor elsewhere. "I want to continue in the business, in daily journalism," Nevels-Hahn, 44, said. She has been in journalism 21 years and was managing editor of Gannett's Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W.Va.

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Black Media Group Sues Comcast, Claiming Discrimination

"Even though the FCC hasn't yet ruled on the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, one group has already filed a lawsuit claiming at least $20 billion in damages from the way the two giants allegedly discriminate against black-owned media," Eriq Gardner reported Monday for the Hollywood Reporter.

"The complaint, filed in California on Friday, comes from the National Association of African-American Owned Media, which also filed a similar suit against AT&T and DirecTV in December.

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"This time, the plaintiff is not only targeting both Comcast and TWC on the eve of the two companies merging to become what would be the largest pay television distributor in the United States — but also various African-American advocacy groups and MSNBC host Al Sharpton for allegedly facilitating discrimination.

"Comcast is one of the biggest companies to employ a chief diversity officer, and its practices have been lauded by many including Black Enterprise magazine, which recently named it as one of the 40 best companies for diversity. The lawsuit figures to face many hurdles, from the sufficiency of its allegations to possibly the First Amendment, but for now it presents a larger portrait of a media company that isn't carrying many fully owned black channels and the dangers of allowing it to grow bigger. . . ."

O'Reilly Defends Himself Against Embellishment Claims

"The Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Monday stepped up his defense against reports that he embellished stories about his war reporting earlier in his career, while some former colleagues continued to say he had exaggerated his experiences," Emily Steel and Ravi Somaiya reported Monday for the New York Times

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"Mr. O'Reilly is contesting an article in the magazine Mother Jones and subsequent interviews with former journalists at CBS News that accuse him of misrepresenting his coverage of the Falklands war in 1982 as a young correspondent for CBS News.

"The central dispute is whether Mr. O'Reilly reported from active war zones, as he has repeatedly said on the air and in his 2001 book, 'The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America.'

"Mr. O'Reilly has said that he had never claimed he reported from the Falkland Islands, where the fighting occurred. 'I said I covered the Falklands war, which I did,' he said last Friday. He went on to describe his coverage of protests in the aftermath of the war on the streets of Buenos Aires, some 1,200 miles from the Falklands. . . ."

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Jackson Connor, Huffington Post: Another Former Colleague Refutes Bill O'Reilly's 'Absurd' Falklands War Stories

David Corn and Daniel Schulman, Mother Jones: CBS Has Released The Falklands Protest Footage Bill O'Reilly Asked For. It Doesn't Support His Claims.

Brian Stelter, CNNMoney.com: CBS staffers dispute Bill O'Reilly's 'war zone' story

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Joe Strupp, Media Matters for America: Former CBS News Colleague Calls O'Reilly's Combat Claim "Absurd"

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Argentine historian disputes Bill O’Reilly's claim of protest fatalities

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Former New York Times correspondent cited favorably by Bill O'Reilly rips Bill O'Reilly

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Matt Wilstein, Mediaite: Dan Rather in 1982 CBS Report: TV Crew Members 'Knocked to the Ground' in Riots Where O'Reilly Was

Journalism Group Challenges Police on Chicago Killing

"Chicago police officers shot Laquan McDonald 16 times, according to an autopsy report recently obtained by an organization pressuring the police department to clear up questions about the youth's death," Mary Mitchell wrote Monday in her Chicago Sun-Times column.

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"Jamie Kalven, of the 'Invisible Institute,' a Chicago-based journalistic production company, and Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago professor, have challenged the police version of how the 17-year-old McDonald ended up dead.

"National attention was focused on the Michael Brown police-involved shooting case in Ferguson, Mo., and the Eric Garner police chokehold death in New York, few people seemed to care about what happened to McDonald. . . . "

Kalven wrote Feb. 10 for Slate, "Whatever happened, it's very difficult to square the police narrative with the facts established by the silent testimony of Laquan McDonald's corpse."

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He also wrote, "The Chicago press dutifully reported the police account of the incident. The reporter for the local NBC station called it 'a clear-cut case of self-defense.' It was also reported that the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the city agency charged with investigating police shootings, would conduct an investigation, as it does in the case of every 'police-involved shooting.'

"In its broad outlines, this is a familiar Chicago story: A black American is shot by a Chicago police officer. A police source says the shooting was justified. IPRA announces it is investigating. Then silence. After a year or two, IPRA issues a report confirming that the shooting was indeed justified.

"The statistics are stunning. According to IPRA reports, Chicago police officers shoot, on average, several residents a month. Roughly 75 percent of those shot are black. Civil rights lawyers and investigative journalists I've talked to who have covered the Chicago police for decades cannot remember the last time criminal charges were brought against a Chicago police officer for a shooting while on duty. . .."

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Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: Kensington police scandal hiding in plain sight

Editorial, Louisiana Weekly: Myth That There are More Black Men in Prison Than College is Debunked

Chris Fuchs, NBC News Asian America: Chinese Community Divided Over NYPD Officer's Indictment

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Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal and Education Defense Fund: New Year thoughts for NYPD's Peter Liang, Montana's Markus Kaarma, San Francisco's Stephen Guillermo (Feb. 15)

Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: The positive numbers about young black men

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Fifty shades of Blue and the real stories they should tell

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Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Black lives should also matter when the killer is black

Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino: Geraldo Rivera responds to critics following hip-hop comments

Blanca Torres, Seattle Times: Move past race to better policing

Howard U. Students, Faculty Add Color to Wikipedia's White

"Wikipedia is a vast ocean of erudition, with entries on virtually every subject, obscure to earth-shattering, and, it may seem, every human being of even vague renown. It is also, its leaders concede, very white," Jada F. Smith reported Thursday for the New York Times.

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" 'The stereotype of a Wikipedia editor is a 30-year-old white man, and so most of the articles written are about stuff that interests 30-year-old white men,' said James Hare, president of Wikimedia D.C., the local branch of the foundation that runs Wikipedia. 'So a lot of black history is left out.'

"Students and faculty members at Howard University, one of the nation's pre-eminent historically black higher education institutions, set out Thursday to fill in the gaps. With Black History Month upon them, they camped out at a Howard research center that houses one of the world's largest repositories of Africana and African diaspora information and, over coffee and pizza, worked to add some tint to Wikipedia's white.

" 'You'd think that, "Oh, Wikipedia has articles on everything," but for anything having to do with a marginalized community, there's a lot of gaps,' Mr. Hare said.

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"Both academics and researchers working with the foundation agree that the online encyclopedia suffers from a dearth of information about black history, too often petering out when the topics extend past the well-known names and events of slavery and the civil rights movement. In the Internet age, this is no trivial matter: To many people, a topic does not exist if it does not have a Wikipedia page. . . ."

Al Jazeera Journalist Accuses Network of Negligence

"The al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who is awaiting retrial after more than a year in an Egyptian prison, has accused the network of 'epic negligence' and said it was partially to blame for his arrest and imprisonment," Patrick Kingsley in Cairo, and Ian Black reported Friday for Britain's Guardian.

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"Fahmy called it naive and misleading to see the case purely as a crackdown on press freedom because Qatar, which funds the al-Jazeera network, used it to 'wage a media war' against Cairo.

"Fahmy, who had both Egyptian and Canadian nationality before giving up his Egyptian passport in an attempt to speed up his deportation in December, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, are due back in court next week following the release of their Australian colleague, Peter Greste, earlier this month. The three al-Jazeera English (AJE) employees were jailed last June on trumped-up charges of helping terrorists and spreading false news. . . ."

Short Takes

"When documentaries broach power, it matters if the film's creator identifies as a journalist or a filmmaker," Lene Bech Sillesen wrote Thursday for Columbia Journalism Review. "It matters not just for the sake of rhetoric and categorization, but in a very real, concrete way, because those who identify as filmmakers rather than journalists have a smaller range of places to turn to, or networks to rely on in the face of certain risks. . . ." Silleson summarized the findings of a new report by the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University.

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In Philadelphia, "City Avenue (US Route 1) between Presidential Boulevard and Monument Road has been officially designated as 'Ed Bradley Way' by [a] recently-passed act of the Pennsylvania State Legislature," Manuel McDonnell Smith reported Monday for PABJ Prism, publication of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. "A bill requesting the change had been submitted by State Senator Vincent Hughes. . . ."

"Yet another packed auditorium greeted a panel of public television producers, executives and other stakeholders Thursday as fans of independent films on PBS rallied in support of showcases Independent Lens and POV," Dru Sefton reported Friday for Current.org. She also wrote, "Representatives from PBS's New York station are taking into account what they hear at the gatherings as they decide whether to proceed with plans to shift the documentary showcases onto a secondary channel and into a fringe time slot. . . ."

"Change.org has launched an online petition drive to stop Johnson Publishing Co. from selling its photo archives," blackmanstreet.today, edited by Frederick Lowe, reported Friday. No sale is expected to take place soon. Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing, told Journal-isms by email last month, "This project could be as long as two years."

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Veteran Native journalist Tim Giago wrote Monday that he has again decided to end his column. "I leave this world of blogs and columns to devote my final days to completing the book I have been working on all of my life," Giago, 80, wrote for the Huffington Post. "I leave having made a few enemies, but deeply proud of the many more friends I have made. He also wrote, "At least twice I have tried to walk away from it but I have always been dragged back into the fray for a variety of reasons. The last time I decided to leave, the noted Lakota artist Del Iron Cloud painted a portrait of me on a horse riding into the sunset and I have since apologized to Del for turning that horse around. . . ." 

"Pui-Wing Tam, whose two decades as a Wall Street Journal technology reporter are best remembered for revealing the controversial Jan. 2005 restructuring at Hewlett-Packard that reduced former CEO Carly Fiorina's authority, has been hired as New York Times technology editor," Steve Cohn reported Monday for minonline.com.

"Julio Ricardo Varela, a pioneer in digital media and founder of 'Latino Rebels,' has joined The Futuro Media Group, an independent nonprofit organization producing multimedia journalism that explores and gives a critical voice to the diversity of the American experience, as its new Digital Media Director," Futuro announced Monday in a news release. Public broadcaster Maria Hinojosa is Futuro's president.

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Jason Reid, who was named in 2011 succeed Michael Wilbon as a sports columnist at the Washington Post, is leaving the newspaper to host a morning talk show on ESPN radio in Washington and write for ESPN.com, Scott Allen reported Friday for the Post. Reid joined the Post in 2007 and was also the beat writer for the Washington NFL team. He is to "co-host 'The Man Cave' with longtime D.C. radio personality and standup comedian Chris Paul. The new show — a blend of sports, entertainment and comedy — will air every weekday from 6 to 10 a.m. on ESPN 980 starting March 16," Allen wrote.

"Ann Curry was in Geneva, Switzerland over the weekend, covering the Iran nuclear negotiations for NBC News," Brian Flood reported Monday for TVNewser. "Last month, the former 'Today' show co-anchor left NBC and set up her own production company. As part of her new relationship with NBC, Curry has the freedom to report on any platform and on any network, including NBC News. In this case, NBC hired Curry to cover the talks. She did not file a story for NBC, however, as the meetings did not produce much news. . . ."

"With great sadness, we share the news of the passing of Cephas Bowles, the recently retired President and CEO of WBGO-FM, Newark Public Radio," the New Jersey station announced Sunday. He was 62 and had battled leukemia. Peggy McGlone of NJ Advance Media wrote in 2010, "Since he took over WBGO (88.3 on the FM dial) in 1993, the country's premier jazz radio station has prospered. It has increased its listeners and membership ranks and expanded its reach in local and global markets. It has also enhanced Newark's reputation. . . ." Bio

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Joe Madison plans to host a special 52-hour broadcast of his SiriusXM show, "Joe Madison The Black Eagle," in an effort to break the Guinness World Record for the longest marathon hosting of a radio talk show, SiriusXM announced Monday. The marathon begins Wednesday at 6 a.m. ET on SiriusXM Urban View channel 126. "The show will broadcast live for 52 hours from the SiriusXM studios in Washington, D.C., ending on Friday, February 27 at 10:00 am. In addition to the host's attempt at breaking the world record, Madison will be raising money for a worthy cause — the construction of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, the final museum planned to be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. . . ."

"A Chicago television station has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the owners of Soul of the South and its related entities breached a contract to lease broadcasting time for the network's programming," Sean Beherec reported Wednesday for Arkansas Business. "The lawsuit, filed by KM LPTV of Chicago-13 LLC, the licensee of WOCK-CD, claims Soul of the South, which is based in Little Rock, owes $1.89 million under the terms of the contract. But Soul of the South says the terms of the contract cited by KM LPTV are not the terms it agreed to. . . ."

"Mozambican authorities have charged two international journalists with trespassing and invasion of privacy in connection with their investigation of rhino poaching, according to news reports and one of the journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Friday. It called on Mozambique to drop the charges and ensure the journalists' safety. Bartholomaeus Grill, a correspondent for the German weekly Der Spiegel, and Torbjoern Selander, a Swedish freelance photographer, were apprehended by residents, CPJ said.