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Rokita, Shabazz reach settlement on press-access lawsuit

Journalist Abdul-Hakim Shabazz has had his admission to press conferences with Attorney General Todd Rokita (above) restored—though he says he doubts he’ll be called on for questions any time soon.

The two reached an agreement before Shabazz v. Rokita could land in court. It stemmed from an October 2021 incident in which Rokita’s staff barred Shabazz, an attorney and publisher of IndyPolitics.org, from entering a press conference given by the AG. They claimed he did not have the proper media credentials, even though Shabazz showed his press badge issued by the Indiana Department of Administration.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued on behalf of Shabazz in the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated. The lawsuit called for an injunction that would grant Shabazz access to future events in the attorney general’s office, which the settlement granted. The attorney general’s office is not covering his team’s fees, according to Shabazz.

In a column, he called the agreement a win for First Amendment advocates and an independent press.

“This is a major victory for yours truly as well as the media as a whole,” Shabazz wrote, “as the attorney general should have never banned me in the first place, especially in light of being labeled a “gossip columnist.'”

In his own op-ed, Rokita cast the media in general and Shabazz in particular as peddlers of “fake news” and a partisan agenda, saying he chose not to continue in part “to free up my office’s capacity to fight for these other laws and issues that deserve our focus.” As an example, he mentioned the controversial trans athlete bill, HEA 1041, vetoed by Gov. Eric Holcomb March 21 and facing a possible override vote by the legislature in May.

The two agreed on just one point: That an ongoing lawsuit would have been a waste of taxpayer money.