Utah journalists can no longer interview lawmakers on Senate and House floors without permission


Credentialed reporters are actually restricted from getting into the Home and Senate flooring of the Utah Capitol to conduct interviews with out permission.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah Capitol at nightfall on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, throughout the legislative session.

The Utah Home of Representatives restricted media entry to lawmakers on the statehouse flooring on Tuesday.

After an almost 20-minute debate, state representatives moved to approve the Home guidelines decision sponsored by Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, on a 65 to 9 vote.

Credentialed reporters are actually restricted from getting into the Home and Senate flooring of the Capitol with out permission, a transfer that has sparked criticism from media shops and press advocacy organizations.

Dunnigan’s guidelines decision that alters media entry within the Home chamber mirrors the same measure accredited by the Senate final month. HR2 prevents credentialed journalists from getting into nonpublic areas of the Home, together with the chamber, halls and convention rooms, to conduct and document interviews with out the permission of the Home speaker or speaker’s designee. The foundations change additionally requires reporters to acquire approval from a committee chair earlier than standing behind a committee room dais.

Just a few lawmakers, each Republican and Democrat, brazenly opposed the principles decision limiting entry to media.

Throughout flooring debate of the principles decision, state Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, requested Dunnigan if there had been any cases the place reporters harassed lawmakers or printed personal info when trying over their shoulder.

Dunnigan stated generally lawmakers really feel uncomfortable their computer systems or telephones when a videographer is standing behind a lawmaker throughout a committee assembly. Photographers and videographers usually stand behind the dais throughout a committee assembly to seize footage of a lawmaker or witness testifying for or towards a invoice.

“So far as the nonpublic areas, I’ll simply state once more, these are nonpublic areas. I feel the media ought to have entry, and I feel the speaker or his designee will give them entry. All they must do is request it for these nonpublic areas,” Dunnigan stated.

“I simply have considerations concerning the restrictions on our free press,” Harrison stated in response. “I really feel like if there’s abusive practices or harassment occurring in any manner, I feel that will surely warrant … a person being restricted, however I feel our free press performs a significant function in holding energy to account and the enterprise of the general public ought to be carried out in public, and for that cause, I’ll be voting no.”

State Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, stated he supported regulating media entry to the Home flooring and stated it might cease reporters’ “gotcha strategy” when requesting interviews with lawmakers.

“I’ve seen many examples of media, ready till the top of flooring time and coming onto the Home flooring when you’re at your desk and … leaning up in your desk and saying, ‘Can I ask you a query?’ with a with a tape recorder in your face,” Thurston stated. “If a media particular person desires to speak to you, they may have the decency to name your cellphone and schedule a time to inform you what they need to discuss, which is according to their code of ethics, so that you’ve got time to arrange what it’s that you simply’re going to speak about.”

In prior periods, journalists have historically requested interviews with lawmakers throughout recess contained in the statehouse chamber to succeed in a lawmaker earlier than they left for one more assembly or committee room.

Minority Chief Brian King, D-Salt Lake Metropolis, stated he was involved the principles decision would restrict transparency.

“I need to guarantee that our media after they’re performing — particularly as they virtually at all times do in my notion — with integrity and honesty, are capable of assist us do our jobs properly,” he stated. “We will’t successfully act as legislators within the state of Utah with out the issues that we’re doing right here being reported to the folks of the state of Utah, actually and with integrity. And after I requested myself if this rule change on these explicit traces strikes us in that course, I simply don’t really feel that we’re getting in the correct course on that.”

State Rep. Steve Useful, R-Layton, who used to work within the newspaper advertising and marketing enterprise, additionally opposed the principles decision.

“I feel their job is crucial to what we’re doing right here within the legislature. There have to be sunshine, as a lot as we may give,” he stated. “I do know that we’re simply making an attempt to regulate the principles and put this in writing, however I feel the optics are horrible. I actually suppose they’re horrible.”

Dunnigan famous that credentialed reporters nonetheless have a chosen media house within the Home chamber, which is situated within the gallery on the second flooring.

“We’re not making an attempt to restrict the media. They’re a precious associate. We want them. We recognize them and we wish them to have continued entry. However these are the nonpublic areas. They only must get permission from the speaker or the designee,” he stated.

This yr, different Republican-controlled statehouses in Iowa and Kansas have additionally taken steps to restrict media entry to lawmakers.

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