Feathered Bastard

Channel 12 Reporter Booted from State House Floor

GOPer and State House Speaker Andy Tobin's turning into a regular Russell Pearce clone these days.

Earlier in the year, there was his support of new restrictions on freedom of speech at the Arizona Capitol, and today, according to Channel 12 reporter Melissa Blasius, Tobin's officious flack Rey Torres booted her and photojournalist Ed Ayala from the state House floor.

Torres told Blasius he had implemented a new policy at the beginning of this session requiring journos to scan state-issued identity cards before entering the House chamber. Thing is, neither he nor security staff at the House had bothered to inform Blasius during her frequent visits.

In the video above, Blasius asks to see the wording of the new policy. Torres tells Blasius that there's nothing in writing, and that he's been informing the media via word-of-mouth.

Moreover, to obtain one of these new House-approved badges, a news hound has to register with the Arizona Department of Administration, which then passes the info on to Torres & Co. for approval.

As if this wasn't enough of a hassle, Torres then makes a stab at intimidating Blasius, once he realizes Ayala has his video camera on.

Blasius writes the following on her blog:

"Torres kind-of threatens us `if you use it [the video] it would probably be not so great.' He also says he won't help us because we've `engaged in hostility' with him by peppering him with questions on camera. The ironic thing here is Torres is supposed to be front-and-center with the media, helping journalists covering the capitol to get the facts correct and arranging for us to have access to public officials."

What is this, North Korea, for cryin' out loud? 

Republicans are always spouting off about "freedom" and their love of the U.S. Constitution. Too bad their read of that document skips over this little thing called the First Amendment.

The Tobin era is beginning to resemble Pearce's reign as state Senate President, with its blacklist of individuals forbidden to enter the Senate building and citizens arrested by Senate security.

Plus, you've got to wonder about this process that allows House flunkies veto power over which journalists gain entry to the august realm of the House floor. I'm guessing critics of the new House policy need not apply. 

Torres' actions are as bush league as you get. Then again, this is Arizona. So I reckon it's par for the course.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons