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Tribes ask news media to purchase business licences

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    NMU         IDAHO         Newsgathering         Jan 14, 2002    

Tribes ask news media to purchase business licences

  • Newspapers and broadcasters said they won’t purchase their right to cover news at a reservation for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

Reporters in Idaho continue to venture into a local American Indian reservation despite threats of being thrown off the property, after the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in southeastern Idaho decided to require all news media to purchase licenses for access to their reservation.

Failure to acquire a license can result in being removed from the property, as two reporters from different local television stations recently experienced.

“It’s required for all businesses,” said Wendy Farmer, a business license officer. “The media is a business. We’re not singling them out.”

Editors at area newspapers and television stations say they are opposed to the licenses requiring them to pay $150 a year or $25 a day to report news from the reservation.

“Asking me to pay a fee to collect the opinions and ideas of (the tribes) is asking me to abridge a certain group of tenants,” said Dean Miller, managing editor of the Post Register in Idaho Falls.

The 1992 Tribal Business License Act states that any persons or businesses interacting with the tribes by “engaging in or carrying on any trade, business, profession or commercial activity” must comply with the act and purchase an annual business license.

“We’re supposed to be a sovereign nation with a sovereign government,” Farmer said. “They need to abide by our laws.”

However, three local television stations, as well as the Post Register, will not purchase licenses, according to company officials and Miller.

“We refuse the offer respectfully,” Miller said. “But we’ll go to the reservation when we need to and want to . . . For us to go to collect information freely falls squarely under the First Amendment.”


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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