Coalition of Journalism Groups Denounce Obama Administration for “Politically-Driven Suppression of the News”

100px-Society_of_Professional_Journalists_logoPresident_Barack_ObamaWe have previously discussed the attacks by the Obama Administration on civil liberties and privacy. Obama has also been accused of attacks on press freedoms — resulting in a sharp decline in the standing of the United States on press rights. Now 38 journalism groups have denounced the Obama Administration for censoring media coverage, limiting access to top officials and overall “politically-driven suppression of the news.”

The letter to President Obama is led by the widely respected Society of Professional Journalists. The media has previously denounced the Nixonian surveillance on individual journalists ordered by this Administration. The letter singles out Obama’s breaking of his campaign pledge to have the most transparent Administration in history. Instead, the Obama Administration has equalled or even surpassed the Bush Administration in secrecy and hostility to public or press access to information. While cutting of access of the media, however, these media organization accuse the Obama Administration of giving wide access to lobbyists, special interests and “people with money.”

Once again, the White House has a virtually army of commenters and blog surfers who continually deflect such criticism by referring to how much worse the Republicans are or simply changing the subject. However, the mounting attacks on civil liberties by this Administration has gutted the foundational principles of the Democratic party and virtually destroyed the American civil liberties movement. What is left the power of personality over principle. However, this will not our last president. When he leaves, he will leave little in his wake beyond hypocrisy for those who have remained silent in the face of the abuses. It is the victory of the “blue state/red state” construct that maintain the duopoly of the two parties. Each party excuses its failures by referring to the other as the worst of two evils. For years, Democrats and liberals have supported Obama as he has attacked the defining values that were once the Democratic party. The fact that this letter is even necessary is a shocking statement on the state of American press freedom.

The letter is below:

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C
July 8, 2014

Mr. President,

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 stifling of free expression is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring “a new era of openness” to federal government – and the subsequent executive orders and directives which were supposed to bring such openness about.

Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely. When public affairs officers speak, even about routine public matters, they often do so confidentially in spite of having the title “spokesperson.” Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers. Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis.

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.

Some argue that controlling media access is needed to ensure information going out is correct. But when journalists cannot interview agency staff, or can only do so under surveillance, it undermines public understanding of, and trust in, government. This is not a “press vs. government” issue. This is about fostering a strong democracy where people have the information they need to self-govern and trust in its governmental institutions.

It has not always been this way. 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 speak to others — lobbyists, special-interest representatives, people with money — without these controls and without public oversight.

Here are some recent examples:

• The New York Times ran a story last December on the soon-to-be implemented ICD-10 medical coding system, a massive change for the health care system that will affect the whole public. But the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), one of the federal agencies in charge of ICD-10, wouldn’t allow staff to talk to the reporter.

• A reporter with Investigative Post, an online news organization in New York, asked three times without success over the span of six weeks to have someone at EPA answer questions about the agency’s actions regarding the city of Buffalo’s alleged mishandling of “universal waste” and hazardous waste.

• A journalist with Reuters spent more than a month trying to get EPA’s public affairs office to approve him talking with an agency scientist about the effects of climate change. The public affairs officer did not respond to him after his initial request, nor did her supervisor, until the frustrated journalist went over their heads and contacted EPA’s chief of staff.

The undersigned organizations ask that you seek an end to this restraint on communication in federal agencies. We ask that you issue a clear directive telling federal employees they’re not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so. We believe that is one of the most important things you can do for the nation now, before the policies become even more entrenched.

We also ask you provide an avenue through which any incidents of this suppression of communication may be reported and corrected. Create an ombudsman to monitor and enforce your stated goal of restoring transparency to government and giving the public the unvarnished truth about its workings. That will go a long way toward dispelling Americans’ frustration and cynicism before it further poisons our democracy.

Further examples on the issue are provided as well as other resources.

Sincerely,

David Cuillier
President
Society of Professional Journalists
spjdave@yahoo.com

Beth Parke
Executive Director
Society of Environmental Journalists
bparke@sej.org

Kathryn Foxhall
Member
Society of Professional Journalists
kfoxhall@verizon.net

Holly Spangler
President
American Agricultural Editors’ Association

Gil Gullickson
Board Chair
American Agricultural Editors’ Association Professional Improvement Foundation

Alexandra Cantor Owens
Executive Director
American Society of Journalists and Authors

Janet Svazas
Executive Director
American Society of Business Publication Editors

David Boardman
President
American Society of News Editors

Hoda Osman
President
Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association

Kathy Chow
Executive Director
Asian American Journalists Association

Diana Mitsu Klos
Executive Director
Associated Collegiate Press

Paula Poindexter
President
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

Miriam Pepper
President
Association of Opinion Journalists

Lisa Graves
Executive Director
Center for Media and Democracy

Rachele Kanigel
President
College Media Association

Gay Porter DeNileon
President
Colorado Press Women

Sue Udry
Executive Director
Defending Dissent Foundation

Mark Newton
President
Journalism Education Association

Mark Horvit
Executive Director
Investigative Reporters and Editors

J.H. Snider
President
iSolon.org

Phyllis J. Griekspoor
President
North American Agricultural Journalists

Carol Pierce
Executive Director
National Federation of Press Women

Robert M. Williams Jr.
President
National Newspaper Association

Bob Meyers
President
National Press Foundation

Charles Deale
Executive Director
National Press Photographers Association

Diana Mitsu Klos
Executive Director
National Scholastic Press Association

Mary Hudetz
President
Native American Journalists Association

Jane McDonnell
Executive Director
Online News Association

Patrice McDermott
Executive Director
OpenTheGovernment.org

Tim Franklin
President
The Poynter Institute

Danielle Brian
Executive Director
Project on Government Oversight

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

George Bodarky
President
Public Radio News Directors Incorporated

Mike Cavender
Executive Director
Radio Television Digital News Association

Herb Jackson
President
Regional Reporters Association

Christophe Deloire
Secretary General
Reporters without Borders

Frank LoMonte
Executive Director
Student Press Law Center

Roy S. Gutterman
Director
Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University

David Steinberg
President
UNITY Journalists for Diversity

229 thoughts on “Coalition of Journalism Groups Denounce Obama Administration for “Politically-Driven Suppression of the News””

  1. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest claims that the Obama Administration has been the most transparent in U.S. history. Maybe there is a simple misunderstanding on how each side defines “transparent”. Maybe, while there have been administrations that have secretly usurped power, this administration has been blatant in their effort; so astoundingly open in the process it’s jaw-dropping.

    I’m still waiting for a journalist to ask, what does Obama want to fundamentally transform America into?

  2. I’m still not clear how any of this infringes the right to vote only for minorities.

    How does eliminating same-day registration only impact minorities? Is it not reasonable to require everyone, wanting to exercise the right to vote, to commit to a registration deadline? What percentage of voters have this problem? My guess is this is a very small number and not worth opening up the franchise to possible fraud. Instead provide an option for those needing it.

    How does requiring a voter ID only impact minorities? Who in their right mind objects to verifying the identity of person casting a vote to ensure they are eligible? If we in fact have a significant percentage of the population without a government-issued photo ID then we need to address that instead of simply removing the requirement. This is so important, I’m for putting a check box on my tax return form to contribute $5 towards a voter ID fund.

    How does eliminating early voting only impact minorities? This couldn’t be the same pool of minorities that didn’t have enough time to register before Election Day, is it?

    Soap bubbles aside; why do we even require a civics test for those wanting U.S. citizenship? We don’t have an equivalent requirement if you are already a citizen, so why would it matter?

  3. There were almost no black voters in NC prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. How many bubbles are there in a bar of soap was one of the literacy tests given.
    The Southern Strategy, invented by Lee Atwater (a South Carolinian) is an interesting part of history. Google Search those words and Lee Atwater. It is fun reading. You don’t have to use the N word anymore. You can get the bigot voter to vote RepubliCon by simply ranting about welfare cheats etc.

  4. The new statute endorsed by Gov. McCrory eliminates early voting (that means voting on more than Tuesday), requires voter ID, eliminates same day voter registration and other things. Here is an excerpt from The Guardian (not a North Carolina newspaper):

    A North Carolina law passed last year that requires voters to present photo identification and eliminates same-day voter registration has been called one of the farthest-reaching overhauls to election rules in the country. Now a judge will decide whether it will stay that way.

    Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina NAACP, the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union will argue the case against state lawyers over the law in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem on Monday. U.S. attorneys and civil rights groups are asking a judge for a preliminary injunction to temporarily delay implementation of parts of the law. The hearing is a prelude to a trial scheduled for July 2015 where a judge will determine whether to uphold or strike down the law.

    Civil rights advocates argue North Carolina has a long history of implementing measures — like poll taxes and tests — to hinder African-Americans, the poor and the elderly from voting. Opponents of the law say it will hurt hundreds of thousands of people who want to vote.

    “This is a full assault on the franchise of voting,” said state NAACP President Rev. William Barber.

    The judge in the preliminary injunction case Monday will not rule on whether to uphold or strike down the whole law with the voter ID mandate. Instead, he will decide what, if any, specific parts should be delayed until a final decision on the law is made in 2015.

    On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Attorney General Eric Holder explicitly said that the Department of Justice was filing the lawsuit because the new law will make it harder for African-Americans to exercise their right to vote:

    “The state legislature took extremely aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African-Americans,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit Monday. “This is an intentional step to break a system that was working and it defies common sense.”

    The threat of voter suppression, both real and imagined, is embedded in the hearts of many North Carolinians. The Tar Heel State didn’t abolish the poll tax until 1920, and literacy tests existed in some form or another until at least 1970, the Guardian reports.

  5. MA,

    P.P.P.S.

    It is not possible that the intent of securing the Presidency and Commander in Chief stated in the Jay letter was even approximated by the candidacy of a son of a father who was a foreign citizen; that the offices neither be “given” “nor devolve on” a foreign citizen. This candidacy is in direction opposition to Jay and therefore the status as “natural born citizen.”

  6. MA,

    P.P.S. Jay, Washington, et. al. provided a STRONG CHECK, not a weak or middling check, to the “admission of foreigners…NOR DEVOLVE ON,” any but a natural born citizen. The strongest check is “parents” and “father” in the Law of Nations.

    “Permit me to hint whether it would not be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government, and to declare expressly that the Command in chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.”

  7. P.S. The educated classes in England spoke French while the less/uneducated spoke “English.”

  8. MA,

    “From 1776 to 1783, the more the United States progressed, the greater became Vattel’s influence,” wrote Albert de Lapradelle.

    YOU SAID, ” the Founders relied upon the law of England on the issue of citizenship. Vattel was a continental writer of great importance, but not on this issue in this country.”

    If English law were simply superimposed on America, why did Franklin say they were without precedents? Why did Mason say “we can establish the government we please and that English law was not the law of the U.S.?

    “Natural Born Citizen” is uniquely American requiring “parents” per the Law of Nations which the Founders “pounced upon,” not on your ” continent,” but in the “library here” (Franklin), the College of Massachusetts Bay and “continually in the hands of the members of our Congress.”

    *******************************************************************************************

    Read Ben Franklin’s words after receiving copies of The Law of Nations:

    “Vattel’s Law of Nations was thereafter “pounced upon by studious members of Congress, groping their way without the light of precedents.”

    Further, you might enjoy the words of George Mason:

    “WE CAN ESTABLISH THE GOVERNMENT WE PLEASE.”

    “THE COMMON LAW OF ENGLAND

    IS NOT THE COMMON LAW OF THESE STATES.”

    *******************************************************************************************

    GEORGE MASON TEXT FOR YOUR PERUSAL:

    “Where did their constitution originate? It

    is founded on a number of maxims, which, by long time, are rendered sacred

    and inviolable. Where are there such maxims in the American Constitution? In

    that country, which we formerly called our mother country, they have had,

    for many centuries, certain fundamental maxims, which have secured their

    persons and properties, and prevented a dismemberment of their country. The

    common law, sir, has prevented the power of the crown from destroying the

    immunities of the people. We are placed in a still better condition — in a

    more favorable situation than perhaps any people ever were before. We have

    it in our power to secure our liberties and happiness on the most unshaken,

    firm, and permanent basis. We can establish what government we please. But

    by that paper we are consolidating the United States into one great

    government, and trusting to constructive security. You will find no such

    thing in the English government. The common law of England is not the common

    law of these states.

    ((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((

    During 1775, Charles Dumas, an ardent republican [as opposed to a monarchist] living in Europe sent three copies of Vattel’s Law of Nations to Benjamin Franklin. Here is a portion of Franklin’s letter of Dec. 9, 1775 thanking Dumas for the books:

    “… I am much obliged by the kind present you have made us of your edition of Vattel. It came to us in good season, when the circumstances of a rising state make it necessary frequently to consult the law of nations. Accordingly that copy, which I kept, (after depositing one in our own public library here, and sending the other to the College of Massachusetts Bay, as you directed,) has been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress, now sitting, who are much pleased with your notes and preface, and have entertained a high and just esteem for their author…” (2nd para) [boldface added]

    Vattel’s Law of Nations was thereafter “pounced upon by studious members of Congress, groping their way without the light of precedents.”

    Years later, Albert de Lapradelle wrote an introduction to the 1916 ed. of Law of Nations published by the Carnegie Endowment.[2] Lapradelle said the fathers of independence “were in accord with the ideas of Vattel”; they found in Vattel “all their maxims of political liberty”; and:

    “From 1776 to 1783, the more the United States progressed, the greater became Vattel’s influence. In 1780 his Law of Nations was a classic, a text book in the universities.” (page xxx) [emphasis added]

    In footnote 1 on the same page (xxx), Lapradelle writes:

    “… Another copy was presented by Franklin to the Library Company of Philadelphia. Among the records of its Directors is the following minute: “Oct. 10, 1775. Monsieur Dumas having presented the Library with a very late edition of Vattel’s Law of Nature and Nations (in French**), the Board direct the secretary to return that gentle-man their thanks.” This copy undoubtedly was used by the members of the Second Continental Congress, which sat in Philadelphia; by the leading men who directed the policy of the United Colonies until the end of the war; and, later, by the men who sat in the Convention of 1787 and drew up the Constitution of the United States, for the library was located in Carpenters’ Hall, where the First Congress deliberated, and within a stone’s throw of the Colonial State House of Pennsylvania, where the Second Congress met, and likewise near where the Constitution was framed

    ** Washington and many Founders spoke French which was the language of England through 1100ad and the legal language of England until the mid 18th century.

  9. LaserDLiquidator,

    Did the “your comment is awaiting moderation” message appear immediately after your posted your comment? I have been reviewing your comment to see why this happened.

  10. All President’s, including Obama, seek to suppress any dissemination of information that is adverse to their current agendas.

    Presidential Puppetry is written by Andrew Kreig.
    http://www.presidentialpuppetry.com/

    Mr. Kreig is an attorney at law (so he is forbidden to tell anything but truth). Andrew also wrote another book, 25 years ago, detailing the demise of American independent journalism. He did such as he witnessed the demise of of integrity of the Hartford Courant (America’s oldest paper)-

    It’s titled “Spiked”

    Available on Amazon, Spiked Management Corrupted America’s Newspapers.

    If you wish to know the truth, you can read both of these for under $10 total.

    But beware – You simply CAN”T handle the Truth!

    1. LaserDLiquidator,

      After testing this a bit I found out why this happened.

      In the comment there was a link to a book on Amazon. The wordpress system then crafted this as ad having the picture of the book along with a button to go directly to the book’s article. The jonathanturley blog is likely set up to place these ads into moderation and this setting will take precedence over the wordpress’ system settings.

      I deleted the Amazon link during my tests and confirmed this is what happened. To avoid this moderation flag, commentators can omit links to items for sale on Amazon.

      I removed the subject link and have “approved” your comment above.

      Darren

  11. John: How many bubbles in a bar of soap? You must not have lived in the South before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The New Bern Sun Journal is a newspaper that refuses to acknowledge the disputes going on over black voting rights. The Sun Journal is quite good at publishing mug shots. All the news that is fit to print. I lived in that area of the state for a while and know about how all the news that is fit to print gets printed. Tank Dog I am out of there and living in Amersterdam.

  12. Al’z’,
    Would you please identify the language in the laws that will limit minority voting? Speaking from a voting rights perspective, you shouldn’t have any problems garnering support from conservative groups. We believe everyone verified eligible to vote should participate in the process and by no means should a law exist that has language to exclude anyone eligible.

    Is there an effort to close down the white newspapers? I’m shocked in this day and age a newspaper would identify itself as “white only”. Of course I wouldn’t support any effort to shut down a business solely because someone “perceived” it didn’t fit their idea of what is newsworthy.

    Your comment about Atwater’s southern drawl resonates with me. I have no doubt you would agree it is intended to pander to a certain audience gullible enough to believe the person is one of theirs. Not dissimilar to how Obama routinely employs that same communication style.

  13. There is a lawsuit going on in North Carolina to stop the new voting laws which limit early voting, poll times, registration, so as to limit minority voting. Its Republican Jim Crow in NC. The white newspapers are not covering the litigation or the issue at all. The New Bern Sun Journal has all sorts of mug shot sections, articles on the civil war history, and whatnot. But other than whatnot, not the real news on an important topic. If one does a Google Search one can find about four papers that cover it within the state. Nothing on the television here in Eastern NC. The Southern Strategy of Lee Atwater for the RepubliCon Party is paying off. They took over the House, the Senate and the Governorship. The Governor is some schmuck named Pat McCrory. You ought to hear him talk. He employs one of those phony southern drawls on television but it winnows down when he is yakking in private with his bank pals in the saloon in Raleigh. All the news that’s fit to print. Mugshots, state fairs, weekends at the barbeque and photos of sharks caught at the beach.

  14. John, I take away from what you wrote that you do think it is wrong for Obama to order the suppression/destruction of the Snowden documents and for him to prevent govt. employees from speaking freely to the press. Thanks for explaining your thoughts.

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