INDIANAPOLIS — A lawsuit filed against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita on behalf of a journalist who was barred from attending the AG’s press conference was dismissed Monday after Rokita agreed to allow the journalist at future pressers.
The ACLU of Indiana filed the lawsuit in February on behalf of journalist Abdul-Hakim Shabazz. Rokita denied Shabazz from attending his news conference, for credentialed media only, on October 14. Rokita’s office argued Shabazz was not an actual journalist and was merely a gossip columnist.
Shabazz, who has covered Indiana government for almost two decades, will now “be allowed admission consistent with terms and conditions utilized for other press or media,” court documents state.
In an article written by Shabazz on IndyPolitics.org titled “SCORE ONE FOR THE GOOD GUYS,” Shabazz said in part:
“This is a major victory for yours truly as well as the media as a whole as the Attorney General should have never banned me in the first place, especially in light of being labeled a “gossip columnist who promotes disinformation so much so that he must disclaim his work as ‘gossip, rumor, and blatant innuendo.”
This is also a total victory as it not only says we can get into future press conferences, but it states that we are ‘other press or media.’
And as much as I disagreed with what the Attorney General did, I will admit he was right in one area, fighting the lawsuit would be a waste of taxpayer money. And on that he was right it was a waste of valuable taxpayer resources and attorneys whose time could have been spent focusing on other matters.”
The ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk released the following statement:
“A free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. It acts as both a check against government power and a tool for enabling the public to make informed decisions. This is why it’s critical for journalists to have the protections they need to keep the public informed.”
Rokita’s office also released a statement following the lawsuit’s dismissal:
“We are pleased to have secured a swift dismissal of the action, which saves taxpayer dollars and allows us to focus more on protecting Hoosier values from the attacks that are coming on the heels of the General Assembly session that just concluded. There is no automatic right to attend press events in person just because someone possesses a security badge, especially when the event is accessible to everyone—in real time—with the ability to pose questions. Our office remains a leader for access, transparency, and engagement with the great people of Indiana. Stay tuned for future action from the office on these efforts.”