March 28, 2022

Attorney General Todd Rokita folds over press access lawsuit


Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita agreed to allow longtime political writer Abdul-Hakim Shabazz to attend his news conferences like any other journalist. - Brandon Smith/IPB News

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita agreed to allow longtime political writer Abdul-Hakim Shabazz to attend his news conferences like any other journalist.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

A lawsuit against Attorney General Todd Rokita over press access is over. Rokita backed down after he barred longtime political writer Abdul-Hakim Shabazz from attending his news conferences.

Rokita claimed Shabazz was not a “real” journalist, calling him a gossip columnist. Shabazz has long had media credentials that give him access to the state government buildings in downtown Indianapolis. And no other political officials had barred him from their events — including Rokita’s predecessors in the Attorney General’s office.

The ACLU sued Rokita on Shabazz’s behalf, arguing the state’s highest legal authority was in “clear violation” of the First Amendment.

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Now, the two sides have agreed to end the case, with Rokita agreeing to allow Shabazz to attend his news conferences — like any other journalist.

In a statement, ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk called the free press a "cornerstone" of democracy, saying that's why "it’s critical for journalists to have the protections they need to keep the public informed."

The Attorney General's Office crowed about the "swift dismissal" of the case, saying it will save taxpayer dollars.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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