“The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.
“Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.
“That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.” Those words were spoken just over sixty years ago by President John F. Kennedy and remain just as true today. Transparency is an essential element to the proper administration in a democratic society. It is the cornerstone of Citizens for a New Louisiana.
Yet, in the last few years we have seen the rapid acceleration of attempts to suppress the truth or simply a dissenting opinion. It is not a coincidence that this shift towards concealment of information comes at a time when people across the globe have the ability to more readily communicate with others than at any other point in recorded history. And while some political leaders wage a fight against government collusion with big tech companies in California and elsewhere, we should all remember that the fight must be fought locally.
THE FIGHT IN EAST BATON ROUGE
While Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry deposed Dr. Anthony Fauci last week he is not the only person in our Capital City fighting back. Last week, Kiran Chawla, a well-known local new reporter who operates Unfiltered with Kiran, LLC, filed suit against the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge and Chief of Police Murphy Paul. Chawla is well known for her efforts to bring attention to the rising crime rate in the Baton Rouge area and the silencing of the Baton Rouge Police association. Chawla, et al, who is represented by Baton Rouge Attorney Jill Craft, is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the defendants.
The crux of the complaint involves the alleged disparate treatment Chawla has faced when attempting to obtain public records, public information and attend press conferences. According to the complaint, Chawla was removed from a public press conference on September 1, 2022, because she was “not invited.” This was the latest of a series of events outlined in her complaint. Chawla also alleges delays and out right refusals to respond to her requests for public records and information, while immediately providing the same information to the mainstream media outlets. Among the excuses provided to Chawla were that she is ‘not media enough,’ lacks ‘credentials,’ and is just a ‘blogger.’ Those who know Chawla are aware that she is a very talented and recognized journalist. Many of us here at Citizens for a New Louisiana have followed Chawla’s work for years and support her efforts to end this abuse of power.
DOES ANY OF THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?
Well, if it does it is because we have experienced and reported about the same level of treatment detailed by Chawla. Again, this is not just a battle being waged in the District of Columbia against big tech companies and the federal leviathan. This is a local issue! There should be transparency in government at all levels and there most certainly should be more people outraged at the lack of transparency that has manifested over the last few years.
It was earlier this year that our very own Jamie Pope was removed from the media well of the House of Representatives. Pope had previously experienced a different level of treatment, like Chawla, when compared to how other investigative journalists and media representative were treated. In an effort to overcome whatever bias barrier the state had erected, Pope was urged to apply for media “credentials” and did so. The Legislative Communications Office approved of Pope’s application and issued her a media badge. However, the first time the badge was used it was revoked by Clay Schexnayder (1/10). Louisiana does have a Ministry of Truth and it is run by unscrupulous despots who will soon enough be begging for your vote so they can maintain their current position or ascend to higher office.
LOCAL POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS ARE JUST AS BAD
No one is immune to the treatment that Chawla has illustrated in Baton Rouge. The same thing occurs here in Lafayette. In fact, our own interests in the criminal justice system there has led us to be more aligned with the Lafayette Police Association and its members than the local bureaucrats. Here in Lafayette ‘woke’ activist like Kenneth Boudreaux have taken aim at officers with impeccable records of conduct, while remaining silent about the misconduct of others because it didn’t fit his agenda.
The Lafayette Parish Sheriff refuses to disclose arrest warrants, information that was previously published to his website and routinely highlighted in social media posts. When asked about unsolved homicides in the Parish we were told there were “no documents responsive” with the extra egotistical caveat of “under the current administration there are no unsolved homicides.” Sheriff Garber’s office also walked lock-step with LCG in refusing to be transparent about agreements it has entered into with the federal government for various programs.
Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government also has a history of failing to disclose information related to criminal activities. In July of this year LCG indicated that there were twenty-four (24) unsolved homicides. However, LCG has been less than cooperative with providing the initial reports for those unsolved crimes. You may also remember that it was LCG that suddenly used tax dollars to pay an outside firm to modify their initial report format to remove certain information and restrict its release to the public. But issues surrounding obtaining public records from LCG are not isolated to records of the Lafayette Police Department. Both the Current and the Advocate have recently been involved in litigation against LCG concerning access to public records. It is this lack of transparency that continues to foster distrust in our institutions.
IS INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM DEAD?
Without a doubt, investigative journalism from the establishment-controlled media is dead. Don’t expect to see any story on mainstream media that is not politically or culturally motivated. Don’t expect to see the mainstream media retract a story that they know to be clearly false. We have seen this again and again. However, investigative journalism isn’t dead.
Investigative journalism lives in the hearts and minds of those who aren’t fooled by the establishment. It lives on in the mother who has lost a child to a violent crime and relentlessly pursues answers despite the government barriers erected to prevent it. It lives on in the “bloggers” who publish serious articles coupled with funny memes and satire to elicit public debate. It lives on in podcasts, like the recent “The Death of Journalism” podcast by Liz Habib and John Zeigler. It lives on through Kiran Chawla, Jamie Pope, Carol Ross and many more who demand answers and transparency from our government. We either have a right to know what is going on in our institutions or a right to choose to remain ignorant. It is up to us to exercise our right or lose it.