Columbia Journalism Review: Threats to Indigenous press freedom

Published November 27, 2018 here.

At one time, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma was at the forefront of press freedom in Indian Country. In 2015, the National Council passed legislation to protect Mvskoke Media—a newspaper, radio, and broadcast outlet funded by the tribe—from financial and political influence. Within weeks of the bill being passed, Mvskoke Media reporters were producing investigative stories; since then, they have covered everything from massive deficits in the nation’s department of health budget to mismanagement of the tribe’s housing program.

But with a recent, chilling attack on press freedom, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has made clear that independent journalism has no home in the fourth largest tribe in the US. Recently, the national council introduced and passed legislation to repeal the free press act, which was signed into law by Muscogee (Creek) Principal Chief James Floyd within 24 hours. The bill dissolves the outlet’s editorial board which has served as an intermediary between government officials and reporters, places the Department of Commerce in charge of approving content, and puts Mvskoke reporters under the nation’s employee policies, which include the right to monitor employees’ computer systems, chat groups, and emails.

Read the whole story here at Columbia Journalism Review.

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Tristan Ahtone

Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and serves as associate editor for tribal affairs at High Country News. He has reported for PBS NewsHour, National Native News, Wyoming Public Radio, NPR, Al Jazeera America, Indian Country Today, and National Geographic, and more. Tristan’s stories have won multiple honors, including investigative awards from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Gannett Foundation. He additionally was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in 2017. He is president of the Native American Journalists Association.

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