Truth

News Outlets Object to Obama’s New Press Restrictions

November 21, 2013

 

WASHINGTON – In a letter presented to the White House today several major news outlets requested more freedom to photograph President Barack Obama in the White House. The statement cited an unprecedented reduction in access enacted during Obama’s time in office.

The news agencies, including the Associated Press and all the major television networks, said they have been denied access to activities traditionally regarded as public including the signing of legislation, meetings with foreign leaders and other important visitors, and other routine activities involving the President and his staff.

The letter was careful to recognize that certain areas of the White House such as the president’s quarters should remain restricted because of privacy or security concerns.

“Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties,” the letter said. “As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government.”

This is not the first time leading media outlets have formally protested the Obama administration’s unorthodox dissemination of official images. Just days after his first inauguration the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Press rejected White House-provided photos, likening the materials to what the AP called “visual press releases”, a term AP Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon repeated today.

Lyon explained that the frequency with which the White House labels events as “private” is much higher compared with previous administrations. After such events, carefully reviewed images taken by White House photographers are then provided to news media presumedly for publication, or directly to the public via social media. The letter asserts the release of official photos following events labelled “private” is in many cases a contradiction.

A spokesman for Reuters said, “Using these photos would be a major break with established precedent and would compromise the long-held tradition of independent photo coverage of the president and the White House by the major news agencies.”

The letter went so far as to say the new restrictions possibly violate First Amendment guarantees regarding “the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing.”

 

Fiction

News Outlets Object to Bush’s New Press Restrictions

November 21, 2005

 

WASHINGTON – In a letter presented to the White House today several major news outlets requested more freedom to photograph President George W. Bush in the White House. The statement cited an unprecedented reduction in access enacted during Bush’s time in office.

The news agencies, including the Associated Press and all the major television networks, said they have been denied access to activities traditionally regarded as public including the signing of legislation, meetings with foreign leaders and other important visitors, and other routine activities involving the President and his staff.

The letter was careful to recognize that certain areas of the White House such as the president’s quarters should remain restricted because of privacy or security concerns.

“Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties,” the letter said. “As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government.”

This is not the first time leading media outlets have formally protested the Bush administration’s unorthodox dissemination of official images. Just days after his first inauguration the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Press rejected White House-provided photos, likening the materials to what the AP called “visual press releases”, a term AP Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon repeated today.

Lyon explained that the frequency with which the White House labels events as “private” is much higher compared with previous administrations. After such events, carefully reviewed images taken by White House photographers are then provided to news media presumedly for publication, or directly to the public via social media. The letter asserts the release of official photos following events labelled “private” is in many cases a contradiction.

A spokesman for Reuters said, “Using these photos would be a major break with established precedent and would compromise the long-held tradition of independent photo coverage of the president and the White House by the major news agencies.”

The letter went so far as to say the new restrictions possibly violate First Amendment guarantees regarding “the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing.”

 

Take-Away

Restricting the freedom of journalists and photographers is a classic tactic of authoritarian governments, so when similar trends occur in a democracy it is important to take note. Much of the public is unaware of just how aggressively the Obama Administration works to control its image. Do Americans worry less about this trend just because Obama is a Democrat who likes to talk about transparency? If a similar protest letter were crafted during the Bush administration do you think there would have been more public outrage? Is this part of a larger pattern of Democratic presidents coming under less public scrutiny regarding issues of first amendment rights and militarism?

You can read the full protest letter here.

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