Political commentator and journalist Abdul-Hakim Shabazz was denied access to a recent news conference by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, which is troubling when no valid reason is given.
Denial of access is contrary to the very foundation of the First Amendment freedom of the press. Historically, the free press has functioned as a watchdog to the government, demanding transparency and accountability.
The press also gathers information and shares it with the public. That helps residents keep abreast of what’s going on without having to drop their responsibilities and go attend a news conference at the Statehouse.
In the past, Rokita has accused Shabazz of bias. Of course, attempts to undermine the credibility of the press in response to unfavorable coverage are nothing new, but they’ve certainly received a boost in recent years.
In fairness, journalists are not immune to bias, intentional or not. Bias is a human flaw, and journalism is performed by humans, after all.
However, bias was not cited as a reason for Shabazz’s exclusion from the news conference.
Shabazz said that the only reason given was that he was not credentialed media. Shabazz added that this is the first time he has been told that his Indiana Department of Administration press badge wasn’t enough of a credential.
According to Shabazz, he was invited to the news conference via robocall and did nothing different from his normal routine.
If the attorney general’s office has changed its standards of what media credentials are acceptable, then it should make this known to media that regularly cover such matters.
The attorney general should provide Shabazz with a valid reason for his exclusion and give a clear standard of what qualifies as credentialed media.
If he is unable to provide this information, then Rokita owes Shabazz a formal apology and should restore his access to news conferences.