Kentucky state police have reached a new low when it comes to freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The Mountain Advocate newspaper in Knox County and a Bell County radio station received an email from Kentucky State Police spokesman Shane Jacobs ordering them not to report on Kentucky State Police investigations until they receive the state police news release. The news stations were then threatened to try to get them to fall in line.
The email read:
Good afternoon, I would like to start out by saying that I feel I have a great working relationship with the media in our area. I work many hours and sometimes on my days off to relay information to the media outlets. I want you guys to know I do have a personal life and sometimes I can’t respond to your e-mails as quick as you would like. I am out of town at times spending it with my family. I have trainings, State Fair Trooper Island, and other events I have to attend which causes me to be out of town also.
I say all this to say this, from this point forward when KSP is working an investigation, you are to wait until OUR (KSP) press release is sent out before putting anything out on social media, radio, and newspaper. No more posting inaccurate information from Sheriff’s or anyone else. I don’t care to confirm something and then get a release out later. Authority of my supervisors, if this continues, you will be taken off our media distribution list. Thanks Shane.”
Mountain Advocate publisher Jay Nolan responded to the email by stating:
“We believe our community is best served when an independent, free press works closely with all law enforcement agencies. Our mutual goal should be to keep the public fully informed and protected.”
Nolan continued, “For the KSP to tell us we can only report what the KSP says, when they want to say it, and we must ignore any and all other sources, that’s crazy. Any professional journalist would consider a publicly elected law enforcement professional like our Sheriff as a credible source. Sheriff Smith has 27 years of law enforcement experience, 24 of which with KSP itself. To tell us we can’t quote someone like him, or an eyewitness, or a local police chief? And, for them to threaten us with removal from their media list is at best misguided.”
Kentucky Press Association attorney Jon Fleischaker said the order constitutes a violation of the First Amendment and that state agencies can’t withhold information from certain media outlets if they don’t like what is written.
“The officer’s threat is not acceptable,” Fleischaker said.
State police Capt. Ryan Catron claims that police don’t plan to withhold information from either outlet, saying the email was simply about accurate reporting.