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House measure limits free press, free speech, free thought

A measure by the AZ House could block citizens from receiving honest coverage of their government officials.

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The right to thought is the absolute core of a free society. Safeguarding thought requires that information flow freely — that speech and press must be free in order for people to think freely. 

The Arizona House of Representatives banned reporters “who would not consent to extensive background checks from the floor” Thursday

House Speaker David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista) did concede that in the 34 years journalists have been granted access to the floor there have been zero incidents, but the speaker said that’s irrelevant according to AZ Capitol Times. The Speaker went on to say: "There had never been an attack on 9/11 either,” he said. “But it did." 

The legislation on its own teeters on the line between a safety measure and censorship. But when you consider that for 34 years, journalists have been granted access to the House floor without a hiccup, it leans closer toward suppression than security. 

As student-journalists and as Arizona constituents, we find any measure to restrict the press deeply troubling. 

What’s important to note beyond the request itself, is that reporter’s personal lives are going to be delved into beyond a necessary scope. Part of being a U.S. citizen is that as a law-abiding member of society, you are entitled a certain amount of privacy from government intrusion.

As soon as government begins delving into the life of any citizen, their free speech is put in such a fragile state — a state of limbo, where any dissenting thought is coupled with a crippling anxiety. 

This problem is only amplified with the press, whose job is to be a watchdog for government.

If the government begins to scrutinize the lives and in doing so infringe on the rights of reporters, the press becomes that much less free — the information people hear about their government officials is placed directly under the scrutiny of the officials themselves.

If legislators are unhappy with the lines of questioning they are receiving, putting limits on journalists should not be the reaction. We find difficult questions in no way offensive and believe that the legislators signed up for scrutiny when they swore an oath into public office.

Government officials should not police news organizations. In order to maintain the integrity of information, and in turn maintain the integrity of our public officials, journalists, not politicians, need to be able to choose how they cover politics. 


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