NAJA launches free legal resource hotline

Posted by Rebecca Landsberry on 07/22/2013

NORMAN, Okla. — The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), headquartered in Norman, Okla., announced the creation of a free member hotline July 19, which aims to provide educational resources for legal and ethical issues surrounding Native American media.

As part of its mission, NAJA has had a long-standing commitment to encouraging and protecting freedoms of press and information in Indian Country.  NAJA also hopes to encourage journalists, tribal leaders and others to approach conflict resolution with more information and understanding.

In the past, attorneys, journalists and other supporters have assisted members with legal questions or issues. Long-time members such as the late Richard LaCourse (Yakama) lobbied for the creation of the hotline, which intends to create dialogue and build stronger connections among journalists and tribes.

NAJA leaders felt that a permanent legal resource should be available to members as an added value to their membership and as a way of encouraging and preserving free press and information in Indian Country.

NAJA members can email [email protected] or call 405-872-6107 any time, day or night, and can expect a response within 48 hours, if at all possible.

By contacting the hotline, NAJA members without current legal representation seeking assistance with pre-publication issues or freedom of information requests can receive free legal advice from attorneys like Matthew E. Kelley of the media law firm of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP, located in Washington, D.C.  Other media attorneys around the country are also being recruited to assist.

Kelley is a former news reporter and NAJA representative to UNITY: Journalists for Diversity.

Kevin R. Kemper is the NAJA Legal Hotline Intake Liaison, as well as an assistant professor and diversity coordinator for The School of Journalism at The University of Arizona in Tucson. He serves NAJA as a member, a research fellow and a faculty advisor to the UA student chapter. His service as the NAJA Legal Hotline Intake Liaison and online resource room editor is provided free of charge.

To use the legal hotline, NAJA members may contact Kemper by phone at 520-903-4461 or via email at [email protected]. He will collect member contact information, tribal affiliation, employer and relevant details of the issue, etc., which will be kept confidential.

With the exception of anonymous demographic information reported to NAJA leadership for program usage, all members’ information will be protected, unless the member chooses to share it.

“These free press issues must be resolved by the tribes, who are sovereign to determine what they allow,” Kemper said. “From decades of experience in journalism and journalism education in Indian Country, I’ve found that sometimes we have to fight for our rights but usually communicating and listening helps us avoid or even solve problems.”

Kemper has a Ph.D., in journalism and a J.D., from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is also enrolled as an LL.M. student in the Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy program at the James E. Rogers College of Law at UA. He is not licensed to practice law in a state jurisdiction but is a lay advocate in the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Courts in Arizona.

“I believe in journalism and free press and also in tribal sovereignty,” Kemper said.  “Supporting one is supporting the other.”

Kemper will serve as editor for a free online legal resource room at which will be available in late 2013, upon completion of his related book titled, “Lessons from the Jaguar, the Shark, and the Coyote: The Law and Ethics of Journalism in Indian Country.”

The resource room will provide articles, links and material highlighting issues such as freedom of information, defamation, broadband regulation, privacy, protection of sacred knowledge and sites, as well as other Native media-related issues at no charge to any journalist covering Indian Country.

For more information or to contribute to the online resource room, contact Kemper at [email protected] or call 405-872-6107.

About NAJA:

NAJA serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures. NAJA recognizes Native Americans as distinct peoples based on tradition and culture. In this spirit, NAJA educates and unifies its membership through journalism programs that promote diversity and defends challenges to free press, speech and expression.

NAJA is committed to increasing the representation of Native journalists in mainstream media. NAJA encourages both mainstream and tribal media to attain the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and responsibility.

For more information, visit