Colorado media groups say Interior secretary violated spirit of 1st Amendment

From the Craig Daily Press: Steamboat Springs — What was intended to be a positive and constructive dialogue about the future of a small, sensitive bird in Northwest Colorado has morphed into a broader discussion about the freedom of the press in Colorado.

The Colorado Press Association and the Craig Daily Press on Monday sent a letter through their media attorney to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell expressing their disappointment that Jewell’s staff barred reporters from attending a public meeting in Craig about the future of the sage grouse.

Jewell’s staff twice turned away Craig Daily Press Reporter Erin Fenner from a round table discussion that included community members, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a quorum of Moffat County commissioners and other local officials.

The meeting was posted as public by the commissioners.

Many who were in attendance said Jewell’s visit and talk on Jan. 22 were well received, but the exclusion of reporters has invited criticism from some local officials and media outlets including the Denver Post and the Daily Press.

A spokesperson for Hickenlooper said that Jewell had requested the press not attend the meeting because her office wanted to promote an “open and frank discussion.”

“Certainly we have a vested interest in reporters’ access to government meetings,” Colorado Press Association Executive Director Samantha Johnston said Monday. “We’re the eyes and ears of the public, and when we’re not allowed to be that, then the public is less informed.”

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