Tribe puts me­dia un­der ex­ec­u­tive branch

The Oklahoman - - NEWS - BY CUR­TIS KILL­MAN Tulsa World cur­tis.kill­man @tul­saworld.com

OK­MUL­GEE — A new Musco­gee (Creek) Na­tion law re­peal­ing press free­dom pro­tec­tions for the tribe's in-house me­dia has prompted a res­ig­na­tion and drawn fire for its “chill­ing" ef­fect.

The leg­is­la­tion, ap­proved by the Na­tional Coun­cil and signed into law this week, places the Mvskoke Me­dia un­der the con­trol of Prin­ci­pal Chief James Floyd.

“This is a chill­ing at­tack on press free­dom by the Na­tional Coun­cil,” said Tris­tan Ah­tone, pres­i­dent of the Na­tive Amer­i­can Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion.

“So what’s go­ing on here with Mvskoke Me­dia is it is funded by the Musco­gee (Creek) Na­tion and the Musco­gee (Creek) Na­tion is es­sen­tially try­ing to say that that out­let is ac­tu­ally a PR wing of the gov­ern­ment and we will treat it as such so that things have to go through ap­proval,” Ah­tone said.

Floyd, who did not re­spond to an in­ter­view re­quest, told the Na­tional Coun­cil that the tribe’s me­dia would con­tinue to be in­de­pen­dent.

“I have not in­ter­fered with any story, tried to stop any story what­so­ever and it (Mvskoke Me­dia) will con­tinue to be the same re­gard­less of where it’s at,” Floyd said Thurs­day in a YouTube video posted on Mvskoke Me­dia's Face­book page.

The bill re­peals a 2015 tribal law that pro­po­nents said cre­ated an in­de­pen­dent tribal news me­dia.

Dur­ing an emer­gency meet­ing Thurs­day, the Na­tional Coun­cil briefly de­bated, then nar­rowly ap­proved a mea­sure to re­peal the tribe’s In­de­pen­dent Me­dia Act by a 7-6 vote.

Mvskoke Me­dia Man­ager Ster­ling Cosper re­signed in protest.

“I don’t want to be com­plicit in a non-in­de­pen­dent press again,” Cosper said Fri­day, re­fer­ring to the time be­fore the pas­sage of the In­de­pen­dent Me­dia Act.

“I saw what the pre­vi­ous model did,” Cosper said. “If you are go­ing to say that you are go­ing to give ci­ti­zens ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, the struc­ture has to re­flect it in some­thing like a bill.”

Cosper said no one ap­proached him about the pro­posed change prior to it com­ing up Thurs­day.

Na­tional Coun­cil mem­ber James Jen­nings said he thought the bill was a “good piece of leg­is­la­tion.”

“I feel like the me­dia ... it’s not per­sonal against the me­dia, but I feel like the news­pa­per it­self could have more pos­i­tive is­sues on the na­tion and not so much neg­a­tive is­sues,” Jen­nings said.

Pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists, press free­dom or­ga­ni­za­tions and tribal me­dia out­lets, mean­while, con­demned the bill.

“The po­ten­tial adop­tion of NCA 18-180 rep­re­sents not just a step, but a leap back­wards in an era where jour­nal­ists na­tion­wide are al­ready strug­gling with pub­lic mis­con­cep­tions about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween re­porters and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials,” ac­cord­ing to a joint state­ment is­sued by the Ok­la­homa Chap­ter of the So­ci­ety of Pro­fes­sional Jour­nal­ists and FOI Ok­la­homa.

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