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

Wikimedia Commons
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.Host Frank Stasio speaks with Smoky Mountain News reporter Holly Kays, The Cherokee One Feather editor Robert Jumper, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed about a recent ban on non-Cherokee media in Tribal Council 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.  

Copyright 2018 North Carolina Public Radio

Laura Pellicer is a producer with The State of Things (hyperlink), a show that explores North Carolina through conversation. Laura was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, a city she considers arrestingly beautiful, if not a little dysfunctional. She worked as a researcher for CBC Montreal and also contributed to their programming as an investigative journalist, social media reporter, and special projects planner. Her work has been nominated for two Canadian RTDNA Awards. Laura loves looking into how cities work, pursuing stories about indigenous rights, and finding fresh voices to share with listeners. Laura is enamored with her new home in North Carolina—notably the lush forests, and the waves where she plans on moonlighting as a mediocre surfer.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.