Gov. Martinez goes on trial in Santa Fe

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UNITED STATES - AUGUST 29: Gov. Susana Martinez, R-N.M., addresses the Republican National Convention in the Tampa Bay Times Forum on the night Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., republican vice-presidential nominee, delivered a speech to the crowd. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The trial of Santa Fe Reporter vs. Governor Susana Martinez (D-101-CV-201302328) is finally underway in Santa Fe District Court.

At the core of the issue: did Governor Martinez and her staff retaliate against news outlets not favorable to her by delaying or ignoring their public records requests and requests for comments?

The suit alleges that the governor’s office stopped responding to Santa Fe Reporter questions and requests after the paper published excerpts from the governor’s private emails with cabinet officials and campaign members discussing public business.

Joey Peters, then a reporter for the SFR, apparently recorded a phone call with Gov. Martinez in which he asked her about the SFR’s problems getting a response. “I wonder why,” she is alleged to have responded.  (full disclosure: Peters is now a reporter for the NM Political Report which ProgressNowNM assists in finding funding.  ProgressNowNM is not involved in the court case).

From the Santa Fe Reporter coverage of the ongoing trial:

During the call, Peters told Martinez that her spokesman wouldn’t reply to his requests for comment. She replied: “I wonder why.” The comment, Peters said, was sarcastic. And it could point to a deliberate stonewalling of SFR.

The governor’s recalcitrance and tone in the call signaled to SFR’s staff that its increasingly frosty relationship with the Martinez administration—brought on, the newspaper contends in its lawsuit, by critical coverage of the administration—could not be salvaged. So the newspaper filed suit, alleging that the governor had committed serial violations of the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, and that her administration had violated SFR’s free expression rights under the state Constitution…

SFR’s case hinges on the idea that when government officials get picky about which media outlets they communicate with—and when they blacklist news organizations that are critical of the government—they’re trying to influence what the press reports. As attorney Katherine Murray, who represents SFR, put it: “To a certain extent, when you choose the messenger, you’re also getting to shape the message.”

Under oath, Martinez’s former spokesman, Enrique Knell, told the court that he “”chose which reporters to respond to based on which ones best carried what the governor wanted to talk about on a given day.”

Follow the coverage at the Santa Fe Reporter here.