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Oklahoma State Senator authors bill to limit freedom of the press

A pocket U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma Legislature press credentials sit on a gray desk.
Graycen Wheeler

If the Oklahoma legislature passes it, the Common Sense Freedom of Press Control Act would place more monitoring requirements and financial obligations on journalists and media outlets.

State Sen. Nathan Dahm (R - Broken Arrow) authored Senate Bill 1837, which seeks to “avoid potential abuse of the freedom of the press.”

Under the proposed requirements, anyone who works for a media outlet would need to submit to criminal background checks and quarterly drug tests.

The bill would also require them to file for a license from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, obtain $1 million in liability insurance, and attend an eight-hour “propaganda-free” safety training developed by PragerU.

The license for individual journalists would cost $290 every five years. Media outlets would also need to pay $250,000 for a license every year and obtain $50 million in liability insurance. That applies to national and local outlets alike.

Those outlets would also be required to provide the following disclaimer before each story, or throughout any video: “WARNING: THIS ENTITY IS KNOWN TO PROVIDE PROPAGANDA. CONSUMING PROPAGANDA MAY BE DETRIMENTAL TO YOUR HEALTH AND HEALTH OF THE REPUBLIC.”

The Oklahoma legislature will have an opportunity to consider the bill when its session begins next month. The bill could come into conflict with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which enshrines the freedom of the press.

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Corrected: January 19, 2024 at 1:01 PM CST
An earlier version of this story had Nathan Dahm's city of residence incorrect.
Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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