Free Press in Cherokee? Not now anyway

To the editor:

In this recent atmosphere of mudslinging, it’s all too easy to lose focus on what’s important. What should matter more than anything to tribal members is the ability to hold their elected representatives on Tribal Council and the chief and vice chief’s offices accountable.

They need a watchdog, and with a free press there is such a watchdog. But there is no free press in Cherokee.

Yes, there is a free press law. Yes, there is an open meetings law. Yes, there is a public information law. However, those laws aren’t worth the paper on which they’re printed if there’s no enforcement.

Under our current tribal leadership, there not only is no enforcement, but there have been circumventions, blatant violations, and there were no consequences.

Take a look a the One Feather and what it’s turned into since Principal Chief Michell Hicks directly took a meddling role in its editorial process:

• There is no editorial.

• Rarely, if ever, are there published critiques of the chief or Tribal Council.

• There is nothing to encourage a free exchange of ideas.

• The free press act was watered down to remove independent and professional oversight of the paper through an editorial board.

• An award-winning reporter and writer has been reduced to writing propaganda designed to puff up a tribal deputy with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

• And as evident in the July 21 edition, the chief can use this publication to denigrate an entire family who did nothing more than to have the chief’s challenger as one of their own.

The changes in the publication have not resulted in the community having a better paper. It has lost circulation. It has lost credibility. It has lost respect, and a look at the paper itself will show that advertisers have noticed.

We need elected officials who support a free press and will back up that support with strong legislation to ensure it. We need elected officials who will resist and oppose pressure to censor or shut out the media, whether tribally owned or otherwise. And we need elected officials who realize that the One Feather belongs to 14,000-plus people, not 14.

Any candidate who doesn’t support a free press, open government and transparency does not care about your best interests.

Joseph Martin


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