The ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita Monday on behalf of IndyPolitics.org’s Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.
On October 14 of 2022, Rokita banned Shabazz from a news conference for “credentialed media only.”
The Attorney General’s office later released a statement that claimed Shabazz is “not an actual journalist” but “a gossip columnist.”
“Our press conferences are meant for actual journalists reporting on real issues instead of gossip columnists,” Rokita’s office said in response to an inquiry from the IndyStar. “Shabazz, by his own admission, promotes disinformation so much so that he must disclaim his work as ‘gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo’ in order to escape from being sued for defamation. Therefore, an OAG press conference concerning a serious investigation is not an appropriate venue for Shabazz. As one of the most transparent offices in government, the OAG carries its press conferences live on Facebook, so all information presented during these events are [sic] available to be viewed virtually by Shabazz or anyone else. Anyone can sign-up to ‘receive our releases and advisories,’ but that does not mean all who receive these alerts will be credentialed or allowed to attend in-person events. Shabazz has not been denied any public records or been prevented from attending any official public-noticed meetings.”
The ACLU says Shabazz has media credentials from the Indiana Department of Administration.
Shabazz has been covering Indiana politics for nearly two decades.
Shabazz and Rokita have had a contentious relationship in the past, but Shabazz says he didn’t file suit because of “personal animosity.”
“I did it because if Rokita can ban me from his news conferences, he can do it to anyone in the press corps, and that’s not a good thing,” Shabazz said in a column posted on IndyPolitics.org. “Yes, the Attorney General can talk about having one of the most transparent offices in state government, but talk is all it is.”
Shabazz joined WIBC’s Rob Kendall Monday morning to discuss the lawsuit.