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The Society of Professional Journalists Calls for Open Media Access tothe Election Process


Irwin L. Gratz
, President, (207) 874-6570 or igratz@spj.org
Charles N. Davis, Ph.D., Freedom of Information Committee Co-Chair, (573) 882-5736
or daviscn@missouri.edu

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists urges election officials today to allow the nation's news media to provide the coverage that will help legitimize an important election.

The Society, the nation's largest and most broad-based journalism organization, warns against rules, such as those imposed by Election Supervisor Theresa LePore in West Palm Beach County, Florida. LePore banned any interviewing or photographing of voters lined up on a public street outside her election office.

Irwin Gratz, the Society's President and Morning Edition producer for Maine Public Broadcasting, says, "It seems to me any rule like this has less to do with protecting voters than protecting officials who generate long lines by failing to adequately prepare for an election with enormous voter interest."

The Society's South Florida Professional Chapter is expressing its outrage at the action, calling it "debatably unconstitutional and unquestionably unwise."

A free press operating freely is one of the best protections the nation has against flawed or fraudulent elections. Excluding the press from serving as independent observers will only serve to cast a cloud of illegitimacy over elections in case of disputes and false rumors. In an election that could be as close as that of four years ago, transparency about the election process will be crucial. As President Gratz concludes, "What would we say if journalists in a foreign country were unable to document complaints about long lines of voters?"

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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