The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) urges the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN) to uphold press freedom for Mvskoke Media and vote against bill number NCA 18-180.
Under NCA 18-180, Mvskoke Media would be removed as an independent agency and be placed under the MCN Department of Commerce, which is overseen by the Office of the Secretary of the Nation. The full version of the bill was posted less than 10 hours prior to the emergency session.
The bill would dismantle free press protections currently in place at Mvskoke Media, including dissolving the Mvskoke Media Editorial Board, which serves as a buffer between government influence and independent news coverage of MCN. The editorial board sets policy for Mvskoke Media to ensure that reporting is fair and ethical, and provides critical strategic direction to steer the organization toward becoming a greater voice of the people.
"We are concerned for our colleagues covering the Muscogee (Creek) Nation,” said NAJA president Tristan Ahtone (Kiowa). “For more than three years, tribal leadership has supported a free press and the sudden reversal of this policy is frightening. The Muscogee (Creek) National Council's move should serve as a wake-up call to tribal reporters and nations that press freedom is an integral, Indigenous value that should be defended, preserved and encouraged throughout Indian Country."
NAJA asserts that press freedom is an essential element of tribal sovereignty and self-determination. An independent, Indigenous press serves the public interest by informing its readers about important news and cultural events, is a platform for diverse voices across the community, and reports on governmental affairs to hold those in power accountable to the people.
NAJA recently launched the Red Press Initiative to advocate for greater press freedom in Indian Country. The lack of journalistic freedom within tribal outlets is among the greatest threats to Indigenous media today, according to a survey of members and Native American media professionals conducted by NAJA earlier this year. More than 83 percent of respondents reported that stories on tribal government affairs go unreported sometimes, frequently or always, due to censorship.
“Opposing this bill shows that the tribe and its leadership support the dissemination of uncensored information without political influence," said Mvskoke Media manager and NAJA board member Sterling Cosper (Muscogee Creek). "This outlet is a critical component to maintaining public trust. There is no other outlet dedicated to reporting on the activities of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and our independence is paramount to a healthy, vibrant community."
The Council will convene during emergency session tonight at 6 p.m. CST, Nov. 8, in the council chambers of the Mound Building, located on the main MCN tribal complex in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Comments can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org or delivered through Facebook.
The Native American Journalists Association serves and empowers Indigenous journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures. NAJA recognizes Native Americans as distinct peoples based on tradition and culture. In this spirit, NAJA educates and unifies its membership through journalism programs that promote diversity and defends challenges to free press, speech and expression. NAJA is committed to increasing the representation of Native journalists in mainstream media and encourages both mainstream and tribal media to attain the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and responsibility.