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Leader of Navajo Nation Council criticizes coverage of girl's death

Filed Under: Law | National
More on: ashlynne mike, crime, lorenzo bates, media, navajo, new mexico, sweat lodges, tom begaye, us attorneys, youth

A memorial to Ashlynne Mike at the bus stop on the Navajo Nation where she went missing on May 2, 2016. Photo by Josey Tipi Wašté Win-Woody via Facebook

The leader of the Navajo Nation Council called on the media to show restraint in covering the disappearance and death of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates said some accounts have included unnecessary details about Ashlynne's tragic passing. The reports have largely been based on an affidavit filed in federal court that included new information about the crime.

"Some news outlets have shown great irresponsibility by re-victimizing Ashlynne and causing deeper anguish to her family and relatives," Bates said in a statement.

Tom Begaye, a 27-year-old member of the Navajo Nation, has been charged with murder and kidnapping in connection with Ashlynne's death. He was arrested on Tuesday at a sweat lodge outside of Shiprock, New Mexico, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a press release.

“How can a man of that nature who did what he did go into a sweat lodge after?” Sher Brown, who recognized Begaye as someone who attended ceremonies on the reservation, told the Associated Press.

Ashlynne and her younger brother, Ian, went missing on Monday while they were waiting at a bus stop near Ojo Amarillo Elementary School. Ian, 9, was found later in the evening by a motorist and helped lead authorities to the area near the Shiprock Pinnacle where he and his sister had been taken. He also identified Begaye as the alleged perpetrator.

"We will try to understand this tragic event, we will grieve, and we will hold our children closer each night," Bates said. "The community welcomes the support of all who have been there for the family and those who mourn the loss of a young life."

The statement issued by Speaker LoRenzo Bates follows:
The tragic death of 11 year-old Ashlynne Mike and the kidnapping of her younger brother have left our communities and the entire Navajo Nation in grief and disbelief. This senseless and brutal act has led to continuous news stories with many news outlets rushing to break the latest information. I would like to say that I understand the rush to be first, but I cannot. As a representative of the community in which Ashlynne was taken and in which she grew up in, I must say that I am deeply troubled and disappointed to see some media outlets continue to share the brutal and tragic details of the last moments of her young life with no regard for the family’s privacy or emotional state. While the family, relatives, classmates, and community members continue to shed tears and continue to comfort Ashlynne’s brother, I strongly urge certain media outlets to exercise better judgment in their reporting.

I understand that the media will point out their right of freedom of the press, but that liberty should also come with responsibility and a sense of reverence in a situation such as this. Ask any of your viewing audience who are parents if they would like the brutal details of their young child's last moments displayed for public viewing all in the rush to be first. As parents we try to protect our children, to give them opportunities that we did not have, but how can we explain to our children that we cannot protect them from the news media? Some news outlets have shown great irresponsibility by re-victimizing Ashlynne and causing deeper anguish to her family and relatives.

Traditional family ties hold the Navajo Nation together and losing a young innocent life in a senseless manner brings us closer. It will take time to heal our community and Ashlynne's family will never forget her. We will try to understand this tragic event, we will grieve, and we will hold our children closer each night. The community welcomes the support of all who have been there for the family and those who mourn the loss of a young life. Thank you to all who we lean on during this time.

In Remembrance of Ashlynne,

LoRenzo Bates, Speaker
23rd Navajo Nation Council

Get the Story:
Meeting focuses on hope in wake of girl's death (The Farmington Daily-Times 5/5)
‘Threat of child abduction is real’ (The Navajo Times 5/5)
Police say Ashlynne Mike bludgeoned, left to die (The Farmington Daily-Times 5/5)
Father: ‘This person who took the life of my child had no heart’ (The Albuquerque Journal 5/5)
Deputies found suspect earlier, but didn’t detain him (The Albuquerque Journal 5/5)
Navajos shocked as details of kidnapping death emerge (AP 5/5)
Navajo Nation reeling after suspect in 11-year-old girl’s kidnapping and slaying identified as one of their own (The Washington Post 5/5)
Community honors memory of slain girl at vigil (The Farmington Daily-Times 5/4)
Ashlynne, ‘An angel we will never forget’ (The Albuquerque Journal 5/4)
Waterflow man arrested in girl's murder (The Farmington Daily-Times 5/4)
Grief and shock rip Navajo Nation (The Albuquerque Journal 5/3)

Related Stories:
Navajo Nation reeling after arrest made in 11-year-old girl's death (5/4)

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