Muscogee Nation voters have approved press protections for their tribe's news enterprise.
Citizens voted 1,914 to 596 last week to amend the tribe’s constitution to include press protections and mandate funding for Mvskoke Media, Indian Country Today reported.
While freedom of the press is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, many tribal nations lack such language in their own constitutions.
The Muscogee amendment allows the tribe's news enterprise — which includes print, broadcast and digital operations — to operate “free from political interest or undue influence, harassment, censorship, control or restrictions from any department" of the tribe's government.
The effort traces to 2015, when the tribe passed the Free Press Act establishing independent media. Its governing body later repealed the law during an emergency meeting.
Last year, tribal leaders unanimously restored the press freedoms by passing the Independent Muscogee (Creek) Press Act, which was viewed as a positive step.
Citizens' Sept. 18 vote goes further by codifying the protections and funding in the constitution. In addition, any attempt to overturn or challenge the amendment must go before voters, Indian Country Today reported.
Mvskoke Media director Angel Ellis described the amendment's approval as “wildly empowering.”
“We saw that our people, our citizens of our tribe, come to the rescue in a big, big way,” Ellis told the outlet. “They kind of liberated that fourth pillar of their democracy because they see that value that it brought to their government and to the tribe and to their daily lives really, and so it’s just been a huge, a huge and an incredible journey for press freedom in Indian Country.”
Native American Journalists Association Executive Director Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, a fellow Muscogee citizen, also lauded the vote.
“We’re thrilled about the news as citizens and as NAJA staff who have been pushing for this protection since it was repealed in 2018,” she said.