NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · GEORGIA · Newsgathering · March 26, 2007
Reporters banned from House floor
March 26, 2007 · Journalists will not be allowed on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives while the legislature is in session under a resolution passed last week.
The change in rules, which the House approved Tuesday by a 132-29 vote, limits reporters to the media gallery starting 30 minutes before the House convenes and ending when the legislators adjourn for the day.
The previous rules allowed credentialed journalists to enter the floor while the House was in session to approach representatives and ask them to leave the chamber for an interview. Under the new rules, reporters can only ask for interviews through House pages.
The new rules still allow print and broadcast photographers to access the House floor at the discretion of the presiding officer.
House Speaker Glenn Richardson, a Republican who introduced the resolution the same day it was passed, said the new rules would put the House more in line with the state Senate and some other legislative bodies.
“It just says the media is not to be given more rights than the public,” Richardson said, according to The Associated Press.
But Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said in a letter to Richardson that the move hurts the public because the media serves as a watchdog.
“Reports from the media are one of the few avenues by which the average citizen can monitor the fast-paced on-going workings of the General Assembly,” Manheimer wrote. “Since the average citizen cannot be at the capitol on a daily basis, he or she relies on the media as a conduit of information.”
Manheimer said the new rules continue a trend of restricting access to information in Georgia.
(H.R. 595) — RG