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Milwaukee reporter banned from town hall meeting

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    NMU         WISCONSIN         Newsgathering         May 8, 2002    

Milwaukee reporter banned from town hall meeting

  • A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lawyer sent a letter to the city objecting to the banishment of a reporter from a public meeting by an alderwoman, warning that the newspaper would seek legal action if she does not apologize.

A Milwaukee alderwoman ejected a reporter from a town hall meeting following negative coverage of her in the newspaper.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Georgia Pabst left the April 24 public meeting after Alderwoman Rosa Cameron repeatedly asked her to leave and threatened to call the police.

“I didn’t feel like being physically carried out of there,” Pabst said in an article in The Bulletin, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s newsletter. Pabst left the meeting to call her editor and when she returned, a large table and Cameron blocked her from returning to the meeting.

Cameron told Pabst, before banning her from the meeting, “You never write anything positive about me. All you write are lies, lies, lies,” according to The Bulletin.

Pabst recently wrote an article about a claim that Cameron committed perjury. Cameron is also being investigated on the improper use of influence and misuse of state property.

Jim Pepelnjak, the Sentinel’s attorney, sent a letter to City of Milwaukee general counsel Grant Langley, contesting Cameron’s actions. According to The Bulletin, the letter said the actions threaten citizens’ rights to be informed about elected officials’ actions and policies.

Pepelnjak said the meeting was a public meeting, therefore an open meeting, because it was publicized in Cameron’s constituent newsletter, which is printed on city stationery with the city seal, as a “town hall meeting” to discuss public services.

The Wisconsin open meetings law says: “All meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.”

Pepelnjak said if no public apology or statement is made they will pursue legal options.

In his letter, he wrote: “The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel takes very seriously its right to inform the public of those actions and policies and will not tolerate any attempt to subvert that right.”


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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