The lawsuit filed against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita on behalf of journalist Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, who was barred from attending the AG’s press conference, was dismissed Monday after Rokita agreed to allow Shabazz at future pressers.
INDIANAPOLIS — The ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. The lawsuit was filed 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 released a statement saying Shabazz was not an actual journalist and was merely a gossip columnist.
Shabazz has covered Indiana government for almost two decades and does regular appearances as a contributor on IN Focus, the weekly political show airing on FOX59/CBS4. The ACLU says Shabazz has media credentials from the Indiana Department of Administration.
“As the complaint notes, the Attorney General’s decision to ban Mr. Shabazz is based on either personal antipathy or on the opinion that Mr. Shabazz’s reporting is too ‘liberal,’ or perhaps based on both. In either event, the Attorney General’s decision to ban Mr. Shabazz from press events is not viewpoint neutral. Blocking a journalist from attending a press conference because one does not agree with their reporting is a clear violation of the First Amendment,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk.
Shabazz is still banned from AG Rokita’s news conferences.
FOX59 reached out to Rokita’s office for comment, and Press Secretary Kelly Stevenson responded with the following:
“We will defend and potentially counterclaim against it aggressively since we are confident that our actions are legally sound and needed to protect staff against professional harassment while defending constituents from the ‘rumors, gossip and blatant innuendo’ Shabazz directly admits to peddling, along with his other non-journalism revenue streams. As one of the most accessible and highly covered elected officials in the state, it’s clear that Hoosiers know what our Attorney General is doing on their behalf, and they appreciate it.”
She then referred to Rokita’s original statement:
“Our press conferences are meant for actual journalists reporting on real issues, instead of gossip columnists. Shabazz, by his own admission, promotes disinformation so much so that he must disclaim his work as ‘gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo,’ in order to escape from being sued for defamation. Therefore, an OAG press conference concerning a serious investigation is not an appropriate venue for Shabazz.
“As one of the most transparent offices in government, the OAG carries its press conferences live on Facebook, so all information presented during these events are available to be viewed virtually by Shabazz or anyone else. Anyone can sign-up to receive our releases and advisories, but that does not mean all who receive these alerts will be credentialed or allowed to attend in-person events.
“Shabazz has not been denied any public records or been prevented from attending any official public-noticed meetings.”