April 21, 2023
Contact: Tim Eigo, SPJ Phoenix President, email@example.com
The Valley of the Sun Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists stands in support of Arizona Capitol Times reporter Camryn Sanchez, who has been targeted with a legal action by an elected official who is the subject of Sanchez’ legitimate coverage. Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers filed a petition for an injunction against harassment yesterday in Flagstaff Justice Court asking the court to bar Sanchez from contacting her – which the court granted. Sanchez has been investigating claims that Rogers resides outside of the northern Arizona district she represents.
Coverage of the news is available here and here.
Senator Rogers has made unfounded suggestions that the reporter may be a danger to the senator. But Sanchez was doing nothing more than her job as a journalist, inquiring into the accurate residence of a lawmaker. In the reporting process, she reached out to the senator for comment and clarification. It is that process, done by hundreds of reporters every day on hundreds of stories, that Senator Rogers has suggested is a criminal act.
Elected officials are subject to reasonable questions about their behavior and their trustworthiness. Any attempt to criminalize journalism to end legitimate coverage merely because it is negative is an attack on a free press and on the communities that rely on government reporting.
It’s important to note that injunctions against harassment like this one are reviewed and decided ex parte – will only the complainant present. We are confident that when the reporter and the Arizona Capitol Times can present evidence to the court, this injunction will be quashed. But even when that is done, the senator’s action has done considerable harm to a vital democratic institution. We urge her to reconsider rash actions like this that undermine government integrity and the journalism profession.