NORMAN, Okla. – The Native American Journalists Association condemns the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s repeal of the free press law and asks Muscogee (Creek) citizens to support an independent press free of government influence and censorship.
On the evening of Nov. 8, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council voted 7-6 to repeal the tribe’s Free Press Act and move its award-winning independent media arm, Mvskoke Media, under the executive branch’s Department of Commerce. The repeal also dissolved Mvskoke Media’s threemember editorial board and placed the staff under the direction of the Secretary of the Nation and Commerce Elijah W. McIntosh. The measure was approved by Principal Chief James Floyd.
The text of the measure was not announced or made available to the public — including the Mvskoke Media staff and editorial board — until the morning of the meeting. As confirmed during Thursday night’s emergency council session, neither the Mvskoke Media staff nor the editorial board was consulted in the drafting process or even knew that the bill had been written.
During debate on the measure, elected officials cited a desire to see “more positive stories” in the newspaper. NAJA has also learned that Mvskoke Media staff must now receive prior approval on all published material. It is the opinion of NAJA that journalists should be bound by the ethical obligation to seek truth and report it.
In a survey of NAJA membership earlier this year, two of the biggest threats to tribal media identified were a lack of financial resources and editorial control. Tribal journalists reported that their nation’s economies impacted their tribal media’s ability to be financially independent and that government officials and political interests often determined media content.
Indigenous journalism plays a critical role in supporting tribal sovereignty and selfdetermination. From holding the powerful accountable to disseminating stories of cultural significance, a free and independent Indigenous press supports the goals of tribal nations by providing an open public forum for community voices. The Muscogee (Creek) National Council’s actions undermine this role and demean this sacred responsibility. Like many tribes, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is bound by a common history catalogued by stories; stories of joy, pain, happiness, and ultimately triumph.
These stories are still being told today through Mvskoke Media reporters; the new historians of the Muscogee (Creek) journey that hold the responsibility of passing on a complete history to the next generation. The council’s actions sever its ties to its past and future by failing to recognize the importance of those stories and the journalists telling them.
For centuries, colonial policies have destroyed Indigenous stories. We have been fighting to restore them for generations. We urge citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to contact their representatives and demand that Mvskoke Media be allowed to remain independent.