The Big Island Press Club‘s Lava Tube dishonor this year goes to DLNR Chair Suzanne Case for “setting up roadblocks to the media who have tried to gather information and gain access on matters large and small.”

The club said this week in a press release, “In particular, Case is cited for trying to issue special restrictions to the media — but not the public — on access to Mauna Kea during protests over the Thirty Meter Telescope, and for creating special rules for the media — but not the public — to follow when contacting division chiefs.”

The Big Island Press Club — “the state’s oldest press club, founded in 1967,” says the press club — has awarded its Lava Tube and the Torch of Light every year since 1997 on Freedom of Information Day, March 16. It’s the birthday of James Madison.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case listens to testimony regarding the possibile limiting of access to Mauna Kea access road. 10 july 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
DLNR Chair Suzanne Case listens to testimony about Mauna Kea in July 2015. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Meanwhile, the BIPC has awarded state Sen. Lorraine Inouye its Torch of Light award for sponsoring a bill to allow a media exemption to Act 111, a law that gives broad emergency powers to the government.

Says the club:

When the June 27 Kilauea lava flow threatened the town of Pahoa in 2015, Hawaii County officials blocked all media access to the flow and its impact zones. Big Island Press Club members met with county officials to try to work out a mutually agreeable solution regarding access and were willing to meet the demands made of them, including paying for increased insurance liability waivers, undergoing specialized safety training and other safety measures. Instead, journalists in Hawaii and across the nation were unable to independently verify events and were provided government-sanctioned photos and updates.

Past Lava Tube dishonors went to Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago, state Sen. Clayton Hee and the Hawaii County Council.

Past Torch of Light honorees include Big Isle Mayor Billy Kenoi, West Hawaii Today and UH Manoa Journalism Professor Beverly Keever.

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