JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Rep. Elijah Haahr wants to better protect the free speech rights of student journalists. This week he filed the Walter Cronkite New Voices Act to ensure high school and college student reporters will be able to do their jobs without fear of censorship from administrators or teachers.
Haahr said the bill is modeled after a law passed in North Dakota. The bill would prevent school authorities from exercising prior restraints over student media except when they are about to publish libelous or slanderous material, invade privacy, violate state or federal law or incite students to create a clear and present danger to the institution. It also would restrict authorities from disciplining student journalists or controlling their activities outside of school.
“Missouri is the home of one of the world’s most famous and iconic journalists in Walter Cronkite, but also the home of the Hazelwood decision that saw the rights of student journalists suppressed,” said Haahr, R-Springfield. “My hope is that we can reestablish Missouri as a place that supports the freedom of the press, and protects the rights of high school and college student journalists.”
Haahr said the Missouri Journalism Education Association, the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri College Media Association all plan to support the bill and work to secure its passage. He is hopeful his colleagues will join him in passing the bill into law this year.