“PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative.” PEN Charter, 1948
“The Iowa House’s decision to deny press credentials to influential political blogger Laura Belin (Bleeding Heart, A community blog about Iowa politics) is a disturbing limitation on her First Amendment rights,” PEN America announced in a statement earlier this week.
Laura Belin, a writer and blogger who has covered political news at the Iowa state legislature since 2007, recently applied for and was reportedly denied a formal press credential that would have allowed her to cover the 2019 legislative session. The press credential would have provided deeper access to lawmaker briefings throughout the session as well as a workspace to focus on her blog, The Bleeding Heartland, which receives more than 1,500 unique daily visitors when the legislature is in session. Belin has been touted as “one of the best political reporters in Iowa” by news executive Michael Gartner. In denying Belin’s application, the Iowa House stated that “press credentials are not issued to members of the public.” Belin told the Associated Press that other non-traditional news outlets have been issued press credentials in the past and suggested that the reason for the denial may be the liberal-leaning nature of her blog. Belin has attempted to appeal the House’s decision and is considering legal action.
“There is little obvious reason why the Iowa House might have denied Belin’s press credential application, and it would be deeply concerning if their decision was motivated by wanting to restrict the political viewpoints espoused in her blog,” said Nora Benavidez, Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “The general lack of transparency around the House’s process for approving press credentials creates space for unfounded restrictions of journalist access. We caution the Iowa House that any content-based limitations on journalists’ ability to report on government business would be an affront to press freedoms.”
In October 2018, PEN America filed a lawsuit, PEN America v. Trump, that seeks to stop President Trump from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes.
Photo credit: The State Capitol of Iowa, with its Golden Dome courtesy of Iqkotze under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded. I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, Second Light, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”
The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others
“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA
“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton