In “Bad Press,” you witness the moment when the Muscogee (Creek) Nation loses true freedom of the press. It happens with shocking speed: the Muscogee National Council, in a listless 7-6 vote in 2018, repeals the tribe’s Free Press Act. The battle to claw back this right is the nerve-racking subject of this civic-minded documentary directed by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, a Muscogee journalist, and Joe Peeler.
The film’s scrappy hero is Angel Ellis, a reporter for Mvskoke Media who has faced intimidation tactics while covering cases of embezzlement and sexual harassment. When the repeal puts her employer under tribal government oversight and its radio show shuts down, she makes the risky decision to speak out and rally for a constitutional amendment to enshrine freedom of the press. Such protections, the film explains, are rare among North American tribes.