The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a lawsuit on behalf of journalist, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.
Rokita held a press conference on October 14, 2021 “for credentialed media only.” Shabazz was denied entrance because Rokita claims that Shabazz is not an actual journalist. Shabazz said that is absurd because he has been covering politics for almost two decades. Shabazz is an Indianapolis-based journalist. He is currently the editor and publisher of Indy Politics, a website that reports on Indiana government and politics. He is also the host of “Abdul at Large”, which is a weekend radio program on WIBC. He also is the host of Indiana Issues, a statewide radio public affairs program.
“This goes to the heart of the First Amendment and our U.S. Constitution. If Attorney General Rokita can ignore this and ban me from his news conferences then he can do it to anyone in the press corps and that can’t be good for democracy and transparency. If Rokita is going to call for transparency and more openness when it comes to Hoosier public schools, then the least he can do is practice what he preaches when it comes to his own office,” said Shabazz.
Shabazz was also selected to moderate a Republican Senate debate in 2018, in which then-candidate Rokita, took part. On March 13, 2018, Rokita came on a WIBC program and said that Shabazz was a “patsy for the debate commission.” He also previously called Shabazz a “never Trumper.”
“As the complaint notes, the Attorney General’s decision to ban Mr. Shabazz is based on either personal antipathy or on the opinion that Mr. Shabazz’s reporting is too ‘liberal,’ or perhaps based on both. In either event, the Attorney General’s decision to ban Mr. Shabazz from press events is not viewpoint neutral. Blocking a journalist from attending a press conference because one does not agree with their reporting is a clear violation of the First Amendment. A free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government actions or wrongdoings,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk.
Even though Shabazz is banned from Rokita’s press conferences, he still regularly attends press conferences of other elected leaders, such as Governor Holcomb.
When asked if he would take an apology from Rokita, Shabazz said, “Sure. Why not?”