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Tuesday, November 28, 2023


The working press will have a lot of paperwork and new criteria to meet to enter the "media galleries" of the legislative chambers and conference rooms, Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd has announced.
In a memo faxed to some of the media Friday afternoon, Liburd said that "no persons except accredited press … shall be granted access to the media galleries of the legislative chambers and conference rooms and no persons except accredited press … shall be permitted to record, photograph, film or transmit live proceedings of the Legislature."
In order to obtain accreditation, media members must "apply in writing to the Senate president stating the name of the media organ that employs the press representative and any other occupation or employment he or she may have. The press representative shall further declare in the application that he or she is not employed, directly or indirectly, to assist in the prosecution of the legislative business of any person, corporation, or association, and will not become so employed while retaining the privilege of an accredited press representative."
Liburd said Sunday evening the meaning of his memo had been misconstrued by the media. "It is not our intention to bar the media from the Legislature. That would be unconstitutional." He said the intention was to establish a policy, as is done in other state Legislatures, and to assure that credentialed media would always have a place in the press gallery whenever they arrived for a session.
"Anyone can sit whereever they want," he said, "but if they are sitting in the back, they won't be allowed to take pictures."
As far as the clause indicating that media people must not be involved in "the prosecution of the legislative business of any person…" Liburd said it has nothing to do with the suggestion by some senators and journalists that legal action may be necessary to obtain financial information that Liburd has failed to release, despite repeated requests, about the 24th Legislature’s spending.
Rather, he said, it is to keep "special key people from doing a hatchet job" on a senator or particular individual or from "seeking to defame or misrepresent what you say."
Liburd repeated this was standard in other Legislatures and said he would have someone on his staff send "supporting documentation," which had not arrived as of publication.
He did not explain why the media representatives would be required to indicate any other employment held by reporters, except to say it was standard procedure elsewhere.
Along with accreditation, the media will be required to "adhere to the dress code established … by the rules of the 24th Legislature, " which, according to a story in The Avis, which broke the story and accompanied it with a scathing editorial indictment, includes not wearing "short pants, slippers or sleeveless shirts."
The Avis editorial said, “Aside from the sheer silliness of imposing an arbitrary dress code…the startling notion that our lawmakers are spending their time dreaming up ways to harass the media is disconcerting. Further, since when has the Legislature been a venue in which one could be assured of proper decorum? (Sen. Adelbert) Bryan and some of his colleagues have from time to time turned the Conference Room into a stage for three-ring circuses, clowns and all. Will this inappropriate behavior now be proscribed? Nope."
Bryan, who according to the Avis also sent a memo about the new policies to some of the media Friday, was chastised during previous Legislatures for turning off lights and microphones in the chambers; he has punched one colleague and threatened others. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor in 1998 for destroying a camera that Daily News photographer Steve Rockstein was using in the Senate chambers to take photos of senators.
Liburd said the new media regulations had nothing to do with the controversial "press conference" held by Mario Moorhead and Bryan in the Senate Chambers on Friday, Feb. 16, during which Moorhead slammed the media, particularly on St. Thomas, referring to them as "good-for-nothing, lily-white St. Thomas journalists."
Liburd said, "I don't condone that and can't speak to what was said by an individual who isn't a member of the Senate. Setting a policy," he repeated "is in no way an attempt to disallow any media," from attending legislative meetings.
Liburd's memo claimed "these polices are in accordance with standard practices in the U.S. Capitol and in state capitols around the country and are within the spirit and letter of" the territory’s Sunshine Act.

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