Ban On Non-Cherokee Media In Tribal Council Chambers Sparks Free Press Debate

Apr 27, 2018

Credit Wikimedia Commons

In early April, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council member Tommye Saunooke called for Smoky Mountain News reporter Holly Kays to be blocked from entering the Tribal Council Chambers. A couple days later, Saunooke issued a motion to ban all non-native media from Tribal Council Chambers. This effectively made the tribe-funded paper The Cherokee One Feather the only media organization allowed to sit inside the chambers.

The ban is regarded as largely symbolic as Tribal Council meetings are streamed live online and on televisions in the building lobby where Kays was permitted to remain. But critics say the ban is a red flag for possible future censorship. Host Frank Stasio speaks with Holly Kays, The Cherokee One Feather editor Robert Jumper, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed for their perspectives on the ban.

CORRECTION: An earlier version misstated the timeline of events. On April 3, Tribal Council member Saunooke called for Kays to be blocked from entering the Tribal Council Chambers. Two days later, Kays arrived at the Chambers to report on a meeting and was told to leave.