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September 17th, 2008 WW Editorial Staff | Rogue of the Week
 

David Powell

     
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Journalists “shall have the following rights—(a) to enquire, gather, receive and disseminate information; (b) to visit public bodies,” etc. However, “no journalist shall exercise the rights provided [above] without being accredited by the Commission.”

Such is the law in Zimbabwe.

In this country, elected bodies may close certain meetings. Oregon law lets “news media” attend these “executive sessions,” if they don’t quote the deliberations.

This summer, Mark Bunster (who blogs as “Torrid Joe”) tried to cover such an executive session of his city council in Lake Oswego. The Council shut him out, and told City Attorney David Powell to write a policy defining “news media.” Powell overreached, writing a draft that would make Robert Mugabe proud.

The problem with Powell’s doctrine is his proposed accreditation criteria—a journalist must work for an “institutionalized,” registered Oregon corporation, having “multiple personnel with defined roles.” We note that the First Amendment covers everyone.

Powell also wants articles to use a reporter’s “true name.” Thus, one of the last century’s greatest journalists, George Orwell—born Eric Blair—couldn’t cover the Lake Oswego City Council.

Worse, Powell decided legitimate publications must “include at least 25 percent news content” and “clearly distinguish news reporting from advocacy.” What, no Vanity Fair?

Finally, Powell’s proposal would let the Council ask a reporter’s employer to send another, more accommodating scribe, if it believes a reporter has broken its arbitrary rules. This, folks, is called censorship.

“All we’re saying is who is qualified to conduct the watchdog role,” Powell says. Right. That’s the problem.

The Council shouldn’t go down this road when it holds a hearing Oct. 7 on the matter. The policy is illegal and wrong.

 
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