38 Journalism groups criticize Obama's censorship of the press in letter to White House

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(NaturalNews) In today's America, you will be hard-pressed to find any institutional media organization being critical of Left-wing politicians, and in particular, uber-liberal presidents. But in what many are calling unprecedented, some 38 journalism groups have lambasted President Obama's inner circle for censoring media coverage, limiting access to top officials and overall "politically-driven suppression of the news."

In a letter to Obama, the group of 38, led by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), said efforts by various White House officials to block, stifle and subdue coverage of the government not only has grown worse over the years but has actually reached a zenith under the current administration, even though Obama pledged during his first presidential term in 2009 to have the most transparent government ever.

"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government," said Obama, via the White House website. "Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use."

That was then. Now, as the group of 38 argued, the Obama White House has increasingly cut off access to the media while opening the doors to special interests, lobbyists and other "people with money."

Blocking reporters' access, delaying responses past deadlines

In its letter, the SPJ said:

You recently expressed concern that frustration in the country is breeding cynicism about democratic government. You need look no further than your own administration for a major source of that frustration -- politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. We call on you to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in.

Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees. This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship -- an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear.

The SPJ described an environment of the "stifling of free expression," chastising the president for breaking his promise of "a new era of openness" to federal government. The group said Obama pledged to use executive authority to bring about such openness, but it hasn't happened yet.

Predictably, the Obama administration has blown off similar charges issued by other journalism groups, most notable among them the White House Correspondents' Association, as if no member of that organization could recognize what it means to be shut out and treated dismissively.

Nevertheless, the SPJ letter laid out specific examples of blocking access and limiting reporters:

-- Officials have been blocking reporters' requests to talk to specific staffers;

-- There have been excessive delays in responding to interview requests that wind up stretching past reporters' deadlines;

-- Officials conveying information "on background" -- they are refusing to provide reporters what ought to be public information unless the reporters agree not to say who is doing the speaking;

-- Federal agencies have blackmailed reporters who write critically about them.

'It has not always been this way'

"In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists =- and the audience they serve -- have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote," the letter said.

Besides asking for more openness, the 38 demanded that the president create an ombudsman position to help clear away existing barriers to news coverage.

"It has not always been this way," concluded the letter. "In prior years, reporters walked the halls of agencies and called staff people at will. Only in the past two administrations have media access controls been tightened at most agencies. Under this administration, even non-defense agencies have asserted in writing their power to prohibit contact with journalists without surveillance. Meanwhile, agency personnel are free [to] speak to others -- lobbyists, special-interest representatives, people with money -- without these controls and without public oversight."

Seems like the longer President Obama is in office, the less enamored with him his traditional constituencies and allies are becoming.


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