By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Senate President Del Marsh’s (R from Anniston) controversial proposal that the Alabama State legislature can limit access to only those reporters that meet his definition of what a journalist is would cast a shadow over how reporters do their job.
Most people have jobs, they have families, they have social obligations,…..they have a life. Their lives prevent them from coming to Washington or Montgomery to report on the highlights of what their government does or does not do. The esteemed founders of this great nation fully understood that when they wrote the bill of rights in the US Constitution.
Far wiser men, than I, or even Del Marsh wrote: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
How difficult is it to understand these simple words? Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of the press.”
I could argue that having a meaningless “Sunshine Law” that allows caucuses to debate all the issues of the day locked away in “Caucus meetings” even when the GOP Super Majority has 70+ percent of the legislature and a quorum++ of the legislature away from the prying eyes of the press or the reading public we serve is abridging the freedom of the press……but I won’t go there today.
Clearly, the State assuming the authority to license who is or is not “press” is a text book, “Abridging the Freedom of the Press.” Marsh or his cronies or the next petty wannabe dictator to come down the road, would have the power to punish viewpoints that they don’t like, by literally having correspondents physically barred from the press room building, so they don’t get to see or hear the proceedings occurring in our taxpayer-built State capital. Very few of our “supposed” Representatives have dared challenge Marsh on this for fear of the retaliation they would receive from the leadership. Would these GOP Senators and legislators remain silent if President Barack Hussein Obama was proposing this? If this were ruled Constitutional by the Courts, why couldn’t President Obama or whomever follows him, not do the same thing once Senator Marsh establishes the legal precedent?
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh glibly claims that the writers and reporters he does not like can simply follow the proceedings of the legislature from the gallery or listen online. Marsh knows full well that most of the serious business of the legislature is handled in committee meetings…..when they aren’t holding it locked up in their caucus meeting away from the eyes of the public, the press, and the other party. If the press does not get to see a bill before it appears on the floor, there is no time to research the bill, and report on the pros and cons of the bill for the affected public to have any input whatsoever. Anything that the legislature does to limit access negatively affects the ability of those journalists to do their jobs effectively. Clearly the favored journalists would have a tremendous advantage over their ‘blacklisted’ peers who were barred from attending the same meetings.
But what about the favored journalists who get their “Approved by Del Marsh” badges? The mere fact that they received Marsh’s blessing makes their reporting forever suspect. What did they do that other journalists did not or would not do to get privileged access? Could their next column get them ejected to the curb? Does staying in Marsh’s good graces mean their reporting becomes suspect? Does Marsh intend that “licensed” journalists become his “Pravda” – the state licensed media of the old Soviet Union?
Editorial boards across the State and the Nation have blasted and lampooned Marsh’s unconstitutional attack on liberty. Why does Senator Marsh and the GOP super majority seem to court unpleasant publicity for our State?
This will be challenged in court. How much is the State prepared to pay to defend Senator Marsh’s vanity bill? Even if Marsh does not intend it, what will the next Senate President or Speaker of the House demand of press organizations to stay licensed? Where does this constant trampling on our Constitutional rights ever end?
For a State whose motto is, “We Dare Defend Our Rights,” Alabama’s leaders have a long, sordid history of trampling on their citizens’ rights.