Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted early Saturday that the accounts of journalists that were suspended late Thursday will be reinstated.
Many of the accounts, including that of VOA’s Chief National Correspondent Steve Herman, were reactivated shortly after Musk’s tweet, however not all have been restored.
Musk said he suspended the accounts because the journalists were revealing information about the location of his private jet, which he said lead to a stalker harassing one of his children.
However, none of the journalists, although they had covered Musk and his shutdown of the account @elonjet, had tweeted location information for his plane, which in any event is publicly available at other online sites.
The account suspensions drew an outpouring of concern from other journalists, rights groups and international organizations.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday, “The move sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats, and even worse.” He added the U.N. was “very disturbed by the arbitrary” suspensions.
The European Union, too, was concerned about the suspensions. From her own Twitter account, EU Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová wrote the suspensions were worrying and noted: the “EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our Media Freedom Act.”
She said Musk should be aware of that. “There are red lines,” she said, “and sanctions too.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists also expressed its concern, saying if the journalists were suspended as retaliation for their work, “this would be a serious violation of journalist’s right to report the news without fear or reprisal.”
Frederike Kaltheunet, director for technology and human rights for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Friday that the removal of the accounts is difficult to defend based on concerns about privacy or security alone.” She said, “Flight data is publicly available elsewhere and Musk is a public figure whose businesses and government connections are in the public interest. If flight trackers reveal his location, it is information that has always been publicly accessible and any risk to his safety is not coming from people’s tweets.”
From her official Twitter account, Society of Professional Journalists National President Claire Regan expressed concern about the suspensions, saying they go “against Musk’s promise to uphold free speech on the platform. We will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for journalism and free speech on all platforms.”
VOA responded to the suspension of Herman’s account, saying, “Mr. Herman is a seasoned reporter who upholds the highest journalistic standards and uses the social media platform as a news gathering and networking tool. Mr. Herman has received no information from Twitter as to why his account was suspended. As Chief National Correspondent, Mr. Herman covers international and national news stories and this suspension impedes his ability to perform his duties as a journalist.”
Musk conducted Twitter polls to determine if and when the journalists accounts should be restored. Nearly 59% of the respondents wanted the accounts to be reactivated immediately. Musk tweeted the results, saying “the people have spoken.”
Musk also tweeted early Saturday that Twitter Spaces was once again running. Spaces, a group audio chat function, shut down shortly after Musk exited a conversation with journalists who were discussing his suspension of their colleagues’ accounts.