Muscogee Nation journalists now have the protections backed by their constitution to do the work its government leaders sometimes don’t want.
It marks the first tribal nation to enshrine free press rights into its constitution, though a few others, including the Cherokee and Osage, have statutes giving media protections.
This is a win for a free and independent press, an important cornerstone for a healthy democracy. The constitutional protection means it cannot be tampered with on the whims of legislators.
About 76% of Muscogee voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring the tribe to provide funding for the basic day-to-day operations of Mvskoke Media and explicitly states that the tribe’s media outlets are editorially independent of the Muscogee Nation government.
That editorial separation is key. It puts power into making decisions based on the betterment of the people, not the government.
It follows a model of other tribally funded agencies that act independent of elected leaders, such as the tribe’s Election Board and the College of the Muscogee Nation.
The vote came after a conflict between its media and governing leaders.
In November 2018, the Muscogee Nation National Council in an emergency session repealed the Independent Press Act that covered its newspaper, radio program and design shop. Legislators said they wanted to see more positive coverage out of the tribe’s news outlets.
The Independent Press Act was reinstated in July 2020 and removed Mvskoke Media out from under the auspices of the executive branch’s Department of Commerce.
Mvskoke Media employees publicly testified that they were instructed to remove pertinent facts and entire stories, videos and radio segments by executive branch employees during that time period. Censorship was occurring.
Omitting information only leads to an ill-informed citizenry. That type of ignorance does not serve any nation well.
Muscogee journalists deserve credit for their continued push for independence. The vote clearly shows an overwhelming majority of Muscogee citizens want a free press.
We congratulate and thank the Muscogee Nation for its support of an independent media.