(New York, NY ) – Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s ban on reporters from daily state capitol briefings, requiring journalists to email their questions in advance for staff to screen and select, represents an assault on Missourians’ First Amendment rights, PEN America said today.

“Gov. Parson’s decision to exclude members of the media from his daily briefings is a disturbing blow to transparency and press access at a time when both are desperately needed,” said Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. free expression programs. “Our local and state governments should be protecting press access so that their communities have access to credible reporting in these uncertain and confusing times. Instead, the governor’s new press restrictions will hinder reporters’ ability to cover what is happening in Missouri. Further, his mandate that press may only submit questions in advance of briefings makes it impossible for journalists to question policies announced in the briefings and, alarmingly, allows Gov. Parson’s staff to pick and choose which questions the he will answer at all. We urge the governor to reverse these new press briefing restrictions. Other state leaders across the country have managed to carry out regular briefings in a manner that ensures public safety without compromising press freedom. There is no excuse for actions that limit Missourians’ access to information in this critical moment.”

PEN America has long fought for press freedom and upheld the importance of watchdog reporting. Learn more about our work monitoring threats to free expression during the pandemic here.