Confronting Bodies: Tribal Government
Date of Action: 1987
Specific Location: Native American Reservations - USA
Description of Artwork: Any journalist writing for any weekly/monthly newspapers or newsletters published on Indian reservations throughout the US and Canada which make up the Native American Press Association.
Description of Incident: Of the some 75 NAPA publications, only one - the Lakota Times in Martin, SC - was an independent newspaper. According to Tim Giago, NAPA president and publisher of the 'Lakota Times,' "other papers are owned by the reservations, which are federally funded." Despite Giago's assertion that many reservation editors are formally trained in journalism, he also states that the newspapers are, "run by people who have no newspaper experience, yet their words are law. If a story upsets the tribal council, it's often deleted. The newspaper is expected to be a propaganda tool for the tribal administration." Regardless of 'Lakota Time's' independent status, Giago has still had his "car fire bombed and windows shot out of his office because of stories that apparently displeased the tribal members." Journalists and editors at other newspapers have expressed the necessity of self-censorship to avoid council confrontations, or have revealed that stories must be approved by the tribal council before publication. Furthermore, "tribal councils are often difficult to cover because they frequently meet in closed sessions, which are immune from state open meeting laws. If a controversial issue is involved, they are likely to keep the public and the press out." In support of council control, one newspaper president stated that, "the Native American press must be careful not to take freedom of the press to its extreme by overemphasizing events that reflect negatively on tribal governments. Tribal governments can be held hostage by such negative reporting by their own news media. Rather, the Indian news media should seek to treat the activities of tribal governments fairly and to promote their positive activities."
Results of Incident: Some journalists have experienced a loosening of council control, requiring approval only on "sensitive" topics. Twelve new independent newspapers are expected to emerge within three years.
Source: "Editor & Publisher"
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