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Groups ask Iowa Senate leaders to give reporters more access

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Free press advocates pushed Iowa Senate leaders Wednesday to change a policy that removed reporters from the Senate floor for the first time in more than 100 years and moved them to a second-floor public gallery where they can’t interact with lawmakers.

“By limiting the access of the press to our legislators it also limits the fundamental right of the citizens of Iowa to have firsthand knowledge of the governmental process,” said Terese Grant, president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa. “The freedom of the press protected by the First Amendment is critical to democracy and in which the government is accountable to the people.”

The organization and others, including the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and the Iowa Capitol Press Association, held the press conference to highlight action by Republican Senate leaders to remove reporters from the chamber’s floor, where they had greater access to legislators.

Senate Republican leaders said they made the change because they couldn’t determine who should get media credentials at a time when there are new media outlets.

GOP House officials and the office of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds continue to authorize press credentials to allow broadcast and print reporters, including one from The Associated Press, to be present at news conferences and in House floor debate from the chamber’s press bench.

The Iowa Capitol Press Association, a group of reporters that cover state government, said Iowa has become one of a handful of state legislative chambers in the U.S. to limit press access in this way.