SALT LAKE CITY — (AP) — The Utah House of Representatives on Tuesday approved new rules that limit where members of the press can film and interview lawmakers, following similar action taken by the Utah Senate two weeks ago.
The rules extend pandemic-era restrictions on when journalists can report from the floors of state legislative chambers.
Journalists covering the Utah Legislature must now seek permission to interview lawmakers on the floor of the House of Representatives and other restricted areas. TV reporters should ask committee chairs for permission to film speakers and crowds behind the dais where lawmakers sit in committee hearings.
“I know sometimes committee members get a little nervous about the cameras right behind them because they can see their screens,” Republican Rep. Timothy Hawkes said Monday during a committee hearing on the measure.
Media organizations and reporters covering the Statehouse have opposed rule changes in the Utah House and Senate, arguing that restricting media movement would make it harder to cover quick actions and allow lawmakers to dodge the press more easily. They said the move reduced transparency — a claim lawmakers have denied.
Utah Media Coalition lobbyist Renae Cowley Laub offered an alternative on Monday, telling lawmakers that credentialed members of the media were working to create an official press corps that could work with lawmakers to fine-tune the rules of mutually satisfactory manner.
She proposed creating a commission with two members of the press and delegates from the House, Senate and state legislative officials to govern press rules, similar to the method used in courthouses across the country. ‘Utah.
“As you can see by doing some simple math, the committee would already be stacked in favor of the government. But it does provide the media and members of the press with the opportunity to participate in some of the decisions made regarding their practice and their profession,” she said.
Outside of the Republican-led Statehouse in Utah, similar restrictions have been passed in Iowa and Kansas.
The new limits come amid growing attacks on the media and parallel new restrictions on journalists covering protests and legal proceedings.
They also come as US states and cities ease coronavirus restrictions that have brought restaurants, sporting events and offices back to pre-pandemic capacity.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.