Free Press Resources

Join the fight for free press and information in Indian Country!

Tribal nations possess the inherent sovereignty to decide how they protect the freedoms of press and information.  Although some do, the problem is that too many still do not.

The Native American Journalists Association board of directors has formed a standing Free Press Committee, and has published resources for anyone seeking to create or expand press and information freedoms in their community.  This resource page provides examples of tribes that decided to do just that – the Osage Nation and the Cherokee Nation.

We need your support and involvement so we can spread the best ideas for how tribes protect freedoms of press and information.

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Shannon Shaw Duty, editor of the Osage News

Shannon Shaw Duty (Osage) is the editor of The Osage News, which has won numerous journalism awards, including the prestigious Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 for holding tribal leaders accountable under the Osage Open Records Act.

“Our hope for this free press page is to aid our NAJA tribal media outlets that struggle with bringing sunlight to their respective governments,” she said.  “We know how hard our jobs are in bringing information to our communities. We hope the Free Press legislation examples provided by the Osage and Cherokee Nations can be utilized to support the free flow of news and information for our NAJA members.”

One of the first tribes in the nation to pass free press and information acts is the Cherokee Nation based in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, which publishes the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper originally published in 1828.

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Bryan Pollard, former executive editor of the Cherokee Phoenix

Bryan Pollard (Cherokee), was the executive editor of the Phoenix from 2007 to 2016. He learned that daily vigilance is necessary to keep free press and information for the Cherokee people. The Phoenix was the first paper to receive the Elias Boudinot Award. 

“Tribal businesses continue to grow financially and tribal governments continue to grow in complexity as a result,” Pollard said. “It is now more important than ever that tribal citizens have the information necessary to understand these changes and how it effects their lives, their families and their communities. An active and unfettered independent press is vital to our cultural wellbeing during this time of rapid economic development.”

The Osage and Cherokee editors are part of a growing team of Native American journalists, attorneys, professors, and other interested citizens and professionals who fight to protect free press and information in Indian Country.

“It is our hope that as a community of Native journalists, we can work together to enhance the voice of the tribal press in all our tribal nations,” Pollard said.  “The resources on this page should serve as a catalyst to empower those seeking a path toward truthful reporting and government transparency.”

To get involved with promoting free press and information for your tribes, contact NAJA at contact@naja.com.

 

Free press legislation is often amended, which either strengthens of weakens the laws.  Please share examples from other tribes so we can archive best practices. Below are examples of current free press acts.

Osage Nation Congress, Independent Press Act of 2008, ONCA 08-07

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The Cherokee Nation, Independent Press Amendment Act of 2009, LA 16-09

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The Cherokee Nation, Free Press Protection and Journalist Shield Act of 2012, LA 13-12

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