The Martinez-Alequin Case
City Hall has quietly become the site of a pretty interesting question in the growing debate over who's a journalist.
Bloomberg's staff has apparently barred Rafael Martinez-Alequin, a longtime City Hall gadfly, Rudy sparring partner, and unabashed asker of random (and sometimes uncomfortable) questions, from his Blue Room press conferences. Martinez-Alequin used to publish a paper called the Free Press; then he didn't have an outlet for a while; and now he writes for a blog and website. His press pass expired January 15, a city government source said; he only more recently applied to renew it.
My instinct, obviously, is to hand out the press cards pretty freely. I'd like to be able to accredit people to Room Eight, if we had bloggers who wanted to report, and I don't see why we shouldn't. At the same time, you can understand an administration's nervousness.
Anyway, the fight is now on. Martinez-Alequin says he has Norman Siegel as his lawyer, and 16 City Council members have signed on to a letter from City Councilman Miguel Martinez of Manhattan today, praising him as "outstanding and forthright," complaining of his "banishment," and asking that his access be restored.
Here's the full letter, which was also signed by Erik Martin Dilan, Bill de Blasio, Diana Reyna, Larry Seabrooke, Darlene Mealy and others:
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
We are writing in the matter of Mr. Rafael Martinez-Alequin of the New York City Free Press Online. For over 20 yeras, Mr. Martinez-Alequin of the New York City Free Press
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
We are writing in the matter of Mr. Rafaeli Martiniez-Alequin of the New York City Free Press Online. For over 20 years, Mr. Martinez-Alequin has been an outstanding and forthright reporter in the City Hall press corp (sic). We feel that his banishment from press conferences held in the Blue Room is unjust and we would like to see him reinstated as son as possible.
It is impt that we retain such qualified reporters in our press corp. for that reason, Mr. Martinez-Alequin's inability to attend your press conferences, as well as those held by members of your staff, is unacceptable.