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SPJ urges Utah, Washington lawmakers to be honest, transparent


Rebecca Baker, SPJ National President, 203-640-3904, rbaker@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

Update 11 a.m. EST: Washington Governor Jay Inslee has vetoed Senate Bill 6617 and legislative leadership has signed a letter committing to not attempt to override the veto.

Update 12:30 p.m. EST: Utah's House of Representatives has backed away from the proposal that would ban reporters from the House floor. The House unanimously passed the change requiring journalists to leave the floor after conducting interviews Tuesday; journalists are still allowed to access the area after floor sessions.

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is angry and disappointed at the repeated attempts of state legislatures to block journalists from reporting on them — this time, in Utah and Washington.

This week, a Utah House of Representatives panel voted to ban reporters from the House floor five minutes before the start of each session. It will now go on to the full House for a vote.

The Utah SPJ Chapter and other journalists in the state argue the action restricts the public from having access to the people who have been elected to represent them. We couldn’t agree more.

"Two years after Virginia and Missouri state legislatures attempted similar tactics, it is time lawmakers across the country remember they work for the people," said SPJ National President Rebecca Baker. "Journalists cover elected officials to ask questions and get answers on behalf of the public, and ensure they are doing the jobs they were hired to do. Yet lawmakers continue to try to find ways to sidestep the press and hide from the public."

Last week Washington state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 6617, which attempts to permanently ban access to lawmakers' past emails, text messages and calendars, as well as past disciplinary proceedings and complaints about lawmakers' conduct — basically an attempt to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act.

Baker, SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee and SPJ Western Washington Pro Chapter this week urged Gov. Jay Inslee to veto the bill.

"Journalism and open government groups have been calling on state and federal governments to be more open and transparent for years. Yet lawmakers continue these ridiculous attempts to stymie journalists and ignore the First Amendment," Baker said. "It’s time for elected officials to do what they were elected to do, do what is right, and be honest and transparent with journalists and the public."

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