Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reporter barred from Mike Pence event in Wisconsin sets dangerous precedent

Freedom of the press is being restricted against those who report the truth

A reporter with the Washington Post attended (or at least attempted to) a rally for Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence in Waukesha this week. Though he initially tried to enter as a member of the press, his credentials were denied on the basis of his employer.

Unfortunately this isn't an isolated incident. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has forbidden reporters from the Washington Post and other news organizations from attending his campaign events on account of their fact-based reporting. Sick of seeing headlines that portrayed him in a negative light, Trump denied the organization, as well as a slew of others, access during the course of his campaign.

What happened to Jose A. DelReal, the reporter with the Post who was denied access to the Pence event, should disturb anyone who considers a free press an important aspect of our American democracy. From the Post:
Post reporter Jose A. DelReal sought to cover Pence’s rally at the Waukesha County Exposition Center outside Milwaukee, but he was turned down for a credential beforehand by volunteers at a press check-in table.

DelReal then tried to enter via the general-admission line, as Post reporters have done without incident since Trump last month banned the newspaper from his events. He was stopped there by a private security official who told him he couldn’t enter the building with his laptop and cellphone. When DelReal asked whether others attending the rally could enter with their cellphones, he said the unidentified official replied, “Not if they work for The Washington Post.”

After placing his computer and phone in his car, DelReal returned to the line and was detained again by security personnel, who summoned two county sheriff’s deputies. The officers patted down DelReal’s legs and torso, seeking his phone, the reporter said.

When the officers — whom DelReal identified as Deputy John Lappley and Capt. Michelle Larsuel — verified that he wasn’t carrying a phone, the reporter asked to be admitted. The security person declined. “He said, ‘I don’t want you here. You have to go,’ ” DelReal said.
After complying with everything that was demanded of the journalist, he still was denied access to a campaign event.

That is troubling, to say the least. Of course, in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin limited access to events like these are commonplace. Listening sessions frequently restrict the press from taking part, and the events are invite-only -- meaning that we cannot take part unless asked by the governor’s people to attend.

That doesn’t make it right. To be sure, presidents and other politicians often try to control their messaging to the press, but Trump is taking it to new and dangerous levels. In a free society we cannot accept these sort of conditions as normal, and we mustn’t allow this precedent to stand.

We must reject this unfair treatment of the press, and demand that the Republican candidate allow reporters access to his events if he wants to be taken seriously as a candidate. His actions up to now disqualify him for the office he seeks.

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