The Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande Chapter is alarmed by, and staunchly opposed to, new restrictions on the news media’s access to the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque. A memorandum to members of the media issued June 2 by Chief Judge Nan G. Nash and Clerk of the Court James Noel requires “at least twenty-four (24) hours advanced notice to the Clerk of the Court of their desire to report on any matter within or regarding the Court. Members of the media shall enter the Courthouse through its main entrance and through Court Security. Upon entrance, members of the media shall proceed to Court Administration to ‘sign-in’ with the Clerk of the Court and to verify that they provided twenty-four hours advanced notice to the Court.”
The rules not only apply to photographers, broadcasters and film crews but even newspaper reporters carrying nothing more than a notepad and pen. We appreciate the need for security at a courthouse where many of us work each day.
The Rio Grande Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, made up of working reporters across New Mexico, responds with concern to the introduction of HB 532 in the New Mexico state legislature. As reporters, many of us rely on citizens to raise concerns about what they feel are misdeeds in the public sector. We feel that our sources should be able to talk to us without fear of retaliation or retribution. This is exactly what the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act is intended to do. But this is under threat as part of proposed legislation by state Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Bernalillo.
President Garrey Carruthers (see his response below)
The Society of Professional Journalists Río Grande Chapter is alarmed and disappointed by the efforts of New Mexico State University administrators to weaken the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). Draft changes circulated by university leaders would significantly limit the public’s access to information about institutions they fund with their own tax dollars. Such changes would leave New Mexicans less informed about their government and remove vital safeguards against abuses of power. For example, draft amendments we have reviewed would give law enforcement broad discretion in determining whether certain public records should be kept secret. While couched in concerns about privacy and due process, we believe this would give law enforcement too much leeway in deciding what the public has a right to know.