What happened after Post report on African journo Simon Ateba who heckled Psaki

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What happened after Post report on African journo Simon Ateba who heckled Psaki

The payment processing firm Stripe has reversed its decision to cut off subscription income for Africa-focused publication Today News Africa, whose founder Simon Ateba interrupted Jen Psaki last month at her final White House briefing.

Stripe’s initial decision was reported Tuesday by The Post and gained widespread attention — in part because it happened two weeks after Ateba disruptively shouted at Psaki, but also also because Stripe boasted early investments from billionaires including Elon Musk, who just reached a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion to restore free speech.

A Stripe representative called Ateba late Wednesday to say he could restore his account.

“Hi Simon, Thanks again for the time on the phone today,” Stripe executive Emily Gonzales Drulis wrote in an email to Ateba. “I’m happy we were able to work out a solution so that we can continue to support you and your business on Stripe.”

Simon Ateba of Today News Africa
The payment processing firm Stripe has reversed its decision to cut off subscription income for Simon Ateba’s Today News Africa.
Simon Ateba/Twitter

“I will work with our teams to ensure this kind of situation doesn’t happen again and that in the future, we work together with our users earlier on to avoid this kind of unacceptable business disruption without the opportunity to fix the issue together,” added Drulis, Stripe’s global head of trust, safety, and risk operations.

Stripe first contacted Ateba on Sunday with an email from “The Stripe Team” to inform him that his site’s offer of a lifetime subscription — for $1,490, versus the site’s one-year option for $149 — violated Stripe policies and his account would be closed as of June 8. On Monday, the company wrote in another email that its decision was “final.”

Drulis told Ateba that Stripe would restore his account if he removed the lifetime option, which he agreed to do.

Jen Psaki conducts her final briefing as White House Press Secretary
Jen Psaki conducts her final briefing as White House Press Secretary, May 13, 2022.
EPA/Oliver Contreras / POOL

Drulis wrote in a second email late Wednesday, “Our team has reviewed your account and confirmed that you’re good to go now that the lifetime subscription option has been removed. I can confirm that your account has been re-enabled and you’re able to operate on Stripe,”

While the lifetime membership did appear to violate Stripe’s fine print, Ateba said the timing of the decision to boot him seemed suspicious after he had used Stripe for about a year without an issue.

The Cameroon-born journalist told The Post that he believes public attention forced Stripe to reconsider.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during her final daily press briefing at the White House on May 13, 2022 in Washington, DC
Simon Ateba of Today News Africa interrupted Jen Psaki last month at her final White House briefing.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“Stripe should never cancel any business, and should never cancel any journalist,” Ateba said. “Stripe should rather partner with journalists and help sustain journalism with grants to small publications like ours rather than closing them down at a time when newspapers are struggling to stay afloat.”

Ateba, 42, added, “I call on Stripe to give us a grant for damage already done and the pain and suffering they caused our small publication.”

The initial decision to cut ties had Ateba considering giving up running his seven-year-old publication, which also employs a network of African freelancers.

JEN PSAKI'S FINAL PRESS BRIEFING - WASHINGTON, D.C. - White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki conducts a news briefing - Friday 13th May 2022.
Simon Ateba has become known at the White House for his loud attempts to command the press secretary’s attention.
Reuters

Although Ateba often focuses on issues of concern to Africa, including pressing Psaki for information on malaria funding for African countries and Temporary Protected Status for Africans living in the US, he’s become known at the White House for his loud attempts to command the press secretary’s attention and for his willingness to ask blunt question, such as being the first to ask Psaki about a report she was job-shopping at CNN and MSNBC.

While jostling to be called on isn’t unusual, Ateba upset many fellow journalists with his efforts at Psaki’s final briefing on May 13. Many people in the room saw his shouting as insensitive to Psaki, who had just emotionally reminisced on her time as press secretary. The White House Correspondents’ Association threatened to yank Ateba’s associate membership if he behaved in such a manner again.

Stripe did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment. In addition to Musk, the company’s early investors included billionaire Peter Thiel, who is known for his contrarian politics and support of former President Donald Trump.

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