Apparently the Arkansas Lottery Commission would rather pick and choose when “freedom of the press” applies to them.
That’s the impression I got yesterday upon arriving at the Lottery Commission’s office to drop off nearly 1,200 public comments we received on lottery ticket vending machines. Reporters from Today’s THV and FOX 16 and blogger Jason Tolbert decided to record the event, but were quickly kicked out by lottery staff members and forced to stand outside in 100 degree heat. A comment submitted to us today over our website by a man named Hal sums up this disturbing event quite well:
“My purpose here is to state my OBJECTION that our so-called ‘Lottery Commission’ would boot the public media out of their offices. […] That action is uncalled for considering they are public officials, running a state agency. The media should object loud and long over such action. This is just one reason that much of our public is losing trust in government.”
Hal couldn’t be more correct. The Arkansas Lottery Commission is a government agency bought and paid for by Arkansans; the public owns the lottery, even those of us who don’t play it. As such, it is no different than any other state agency, and it should be accountable to the press and Arkansas’ citizens. Transparency, it seems, is not a high priority for the Lottery Commission. If they truly cared about openness, they wouldn’t have felt the need to kick out members of the media yesterday afternoon.
I can’t help but wonder, however, if they would have been so quick to kick the press out if we had been there to turn in a multi-million-dollar winning lottery ticket instead of stacks of comments against the lottery. I guess we will never know.