Panel to Discuss Why Free Press Matters

The Salina Art Center will host a community discussion panel in conjunction with an upcoming film.

According to the organization, the discussion is part of the showing of the film “Bad Press.” The film is showing this Friday, November 17 to Wednesday, November 22, 2023 at the Art Center Cinema.

Bad Press is a film that documents a rogue reporter, when the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring its free press, fighting to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian country.

A community discussion panel will be held at the Art Center Cinema on Sunday, November 19 at 4 PM between scheduled showings of the film, “Bad Press“. Sunday showings of the film are held at 2 PM and 6 PM. Join the Art Center and a panel of special guests, including Clay Wirestone from the Kansas Reflector, Paul Green from Kansas Wesleyan University, and Charles Rankin from the Salina Journal as the importance of free press is discussed.

Tickets for “Bad Press” can be purchased online or at the box office.

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On the film ‘Bad Press’

Americans take for granted the notion of a “free press,” but what does a society look like when that freedom doesn’t exist? Sadly, we don’t have to travel abroad to see censorship and suppression of the media. It’s happening in many parts of America, including Native American reservations which are not bound to the constitutional protections of a free press.

This sobering, frighteningly pertinent documentary gives us a glimpse at the kind of dystopia that can occur when political leaders flex their authoritarian muscle against the press. It also serves as a fascinating inside look at the political processes and ideological battles within the indigenous community, a reminder of the cultural diversity existing within our own country.

Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, executive director of the Native American Journalists Association, and Joe Peeler, a veteran documentarian, co-direct this gripping look at the efforts of Angel Ellis, a journalist determined to restore the Free Press Act enacted by the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma. After only three years, a group of legislators repealed the act, effectively giving control of the media to tribal government instead of an independent editorial board.

With alarming swiftness, the news media became a propaganda tool of corrupt political leaders, enraging not just activist like Ellis but ordinary citizens. What’s truly frightening about this eye-opening film is how familiar-sounding are the justifications for suppressing public information.

We’re seeing examples of press intimidation elsewhere in the country, but Bad Press reveals just how bad things can get, and reminds viewers that independent journalism is essential to the freedom we hold dear—and can be taken away before we realize it.