The Baltimore Association of Black Journalists on Monday formally called on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to lift her ban of a WYPR reporter who covers City Hall.
Rawlings-Blake last week denied WYPR’s P. Kenneth Burns access to news conferences following the weekly Board of Estimates meetings. The mayor accused Burns of exhibiting “verbally and physically threatening” behavior, but declined to provide evidence to support her claims. Burns denies the accusations.
Rawlings-Blake said Burns is welcome at other events the mayor hosts, but not the news conferences that follow decisions by the city’s spending panel.
During the previous week’s briefing, Rawlings-Blake took issue with a line of questioning from Burns, in which he asked about the Baltimore Police Department. The weekly briefings are listed on the mayor’s public schedule and are typically open to all members of the media.
“It is imperative that officials not abuse power or restrict citizens’ constitutional right to receive information via a free press. It is when personalities clash or coverage could be deemed unflattering, that the power of our free press is a shining example to the world.,” the Baltimore Association of Black Journalists wrote in a statement Monday.
“For the foregoing reasons, we are concerned that your decision appears to be in response to an adversarial exchange, and not due to any imminent threats or danger. This is unacceptable and the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Baltimore Association of Black Journalists, strongly rebukes your action and formally requests an immediate reversal.”
Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, declined to comment.
The Baltimore Association of Black Journalists’ vice president of print, Andrea McDaniels, is a reporter at The Baltimore Sun.