(Updated) Texas Rep. Villalba Blocks Student Journalist on Twitter For Asking Him a Question

These are the guys Villalba's trying to stop. The cop-watchers.
These are the guys Villalba's trying to stop. The cop-watchers.
Dylan Hollingsworth

Update March 23: Villalba unblocked Rhoads on Saturday and promised her an exclusive after the bill gets its committee hearing on March 26.

Jason Villalba's taken a lot of heat for HB 2918. Some of it's been deserved -- even Villalba himself admitted to The Dallas Morning News that the bill, which limits how non-reporters can record police, was drafted poorly -- and some of it hasn't. Brett Sanders, founder of First Amendment Fridays on YouTube and friend of Open Carry Tarrant County's Kory Watkins , accused Villalba of being a Nazi, which is totally uncool.

Much of the invective spewed in Villalba's direction has come from social media, specifically Twitter, and it seems the state representative, or whatever staffer runs his Twitter account, has gotten a little trigger-happy with the block button.

Kate Rhoads is a journalism student at Brookhaven Community College in Farmers Branch and the managing editor of the Brookhaven Courier, the school's student newspaper. Along with many of her fellow journalists, she was curious about the potential ramifications of HB 2918, which requires people videotaping and photographing cops stay at least 25 feet away from the action.

She's working on a story about Villalba's bill. She talked to DMN photographer Guy Reynolds and East Dallas gadfly Avi Adelman about the bill, but she wanted to get in touch with Villalba too, seeing as he'd written the thing.

Harmless enough, right? Not to Villalba, apparently, as Rhoads quickly found herself blocked from viewing the lawmakers tweets.

"I wanted to get Representative Villalba's take on the issue, as well. I was fulfilling my journalistic duty to give voice to both sides of the issue, and he responded by blocking me on Twitter. I was taken aback that a lawmaker -- someone who is supposed to be serving his constituents -- would resort to such a petty tactic to avoid answering to a bill he introduced to the Texas Legislature. As a student of photojournalism and an editor of a college newspaper, I am extremely interested in how this law would affect the world of photojournalism and the First Amendment freedoms it restricts. I asked him the question out of sincerity and in a way I considered to be not rude or inappropriate at all," Rhoads told us on Facebook.

Not cool, Representative Villalba, not cool at all.

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