‘As the old saying goes, “there’s two sides to every story.” Well, it’s our job to make sure that we tell every side.’
Transparency demands answers, not just ability to question
OKMULGEE, Okla. — Pick up a Webster’s dictionary and thumb through to the T’s. Find transparency. Because if tribal officials, elected representatives and citizens are going to throw the term out ad nauseam, then we’d better all be in agreement on what it actually means.
The basic definition reads that transparency is something that, “allows light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.” But in regards to an organization or its activities, it is simply defined as being open to public scrutiny.
In a day and age where the president of the United States terms anything that doesn’t paint himself or his actions in a positive light as “fake news,” and makes bashing media a hobby, I feel the need to remind everyone that public scrutiny is a good thing. And its importance and place in the world is recognized.
The United Nations‘ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
Same with the U.S. Constitution, those freedoms are given paramount status. Why else would the establishment of, and protections for a free press show up in the very first amendment if this were not so?
Any functioning government needs a watchdog, with the press acting as a vital component of checks and balances. The press is the lifeline of information from a government to the people it serves. If you don’t have that, there is generally no liberty.
For so long, Indian Country hasn’t been hip to that action. Muscogee (Creek) Nation didn’t pass a free press act until the year 2015, and even then, was only the fourth tribal government in America to do so.
It’s the job of the press, in this case myself and the folks here at Mvskoke Media, to take the concerns and questions of the citizens and relay them to the government for answers. It’s a massive responsibility.
As the old saying goes, “there’s two sides to every story.” Well, it’s our job to make sure that we tell every side.
It’s hard to do that when we only get one. Recently we had a citizen telling their side of a story on air and in print regarding a housing issue. But that’s all we got. No comment from the government as of now.
A council representative was recently brought up on charges from the National Council’s Internal Affairs Committee, and the Council representative in question has spoken with Mvskoke Media regarding this issue. But the only thing we have gotten as of press time from the Council is again, no comment.
Many times, we have trouble just getting a response, which is probably the worst thing you can do when you have citizens claiming that you’re not responding to their needs or even hearing them out.
Our status as a free and independent press is relatively new here at MCN. I get that, and I understand that it may take some getting used to. But I also feel it’s important to point out that repeated responses of “no comment” or not responding to the press in a timely manner will eventually lead to a discord between the government and its constituency.
I think we’ve seen that. Many times we are made aware of information at Mvskoke Media, only to be told that it is to remain “off the record.” That means we can’t publish it. That means the people are getting an incomplete story. That means only one entity looks bad, the individual or government body that is unwilling to openly speak.
If you think transparency isn’t important to Muscogee citizens, then I challenge you to attend any candidate forum or to keep your eyes open on social media. People are talking about it and in many cases, the lack of it.
I don’t write this to be inflammatory, I am simply pointing out that issues can be swerved, framed and manipulated when they are not published from all sides. And I think everyone should be aware of that.
Outrageous claims can be made against any chief or council, and if they don’t respond, all that’s out there is the claims. Anonymous gossip sites, hearsay, rumors… none of those things can survive in a situation where everyone is actively taking part in the process.
No comment is no good. With a free press, it just doesn’t work anymore. Let’s start letting the light in, so that things can be clearly seen.