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.


David Cuillier
Society of Professional Journalists

Beth Parke
Executive Director
Society of Environmental Journalists

Kathryn Foxhall
Society of Professional Journalists

Holly Spangler
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
American Society of News Editors

Hoda Osman
Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association

Kathy Chow
Executive Director
Asian American Journalists Association

Diana Mitsu Klos
Executive Director
Associated Collegiate Press

Paula Poindexter
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

Miriam Pepper
Association of Opinion Journalists

Lisa Graves
Executive Director
Center for Media and Democracy

Rachele Kanigel
College Media Association

Gay Porter DeNileon
Colorado Press Women

Sue Udry
Executive Director
Defending Dissent Foundation

Mark Newton
Journalism Education Association

Mark Horvit
Executive Director
Investigative Reporters and Editors

J.H. Snider

Phyllis J. Griekspoor
North American Agricultural Journalists

Carol Pierce
Executive Director
National Federation of Press Women

Robert M. Williams Jr.
National Newspaper Association

Bob Meyers
National Press Foundation

Charles Deale
Executive Director
National Press Photographers Association

Diana Mitsu Klos
Executive Director
National Scholastic Press Association

Mary Hudetz
Native American Journalists Association

Jane McDonnell
Executive Director
Online News Association

Patrice McDermott
Executive Director

Tim Franklin
The Poynter Institute

Danielle Brian
Executive Director
Project on Government Oversight

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

George Bodarky
Public Radio News Directors Incorporated

Mike Cavender
Executive Director
Radio Television Digital News Association

Herb Jackson
Regional Reporters Association

Christophe Deloire
Secretary General
Reporters without Borders

Frank LoMonte
Executive Director
Student Press Law Center

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

David Steinberg
UNITY Journalists for Diversity

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

  1. “Paul C. Schulte
    Dredd – Obama is the President of the United States, but he is not my President. I voted for Mickey Mouse both times.”

    This “presidency” will be annulled ultimately. He won the vote but he is not eligible.

    The son of a citizen of a foreign country is not eligible to be president. The whole world may love him but the Constitution says he can’t be president. Sorry. You have other motives and desires so you refuse and ignore the obvious.

    Ben Franklin said he was very happy to receive multiple copies of The Law of Nations which the Founders “pounced on” to find new legal courses. British law was rejected, verbally by many, as was the entire British Empire. The Law of Nations required “parents” and succession from the “father” not the mother. The Founders understood and perceived no equivocation in the phrase, “natural born citizen” having studied the Law of Nations and Vattel.

    Your perception is at odds with the content of the following letter.


    “”Fearing foreign influence on a future President and Commander in Chief of the American military, the future first U.S. Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, on July 25, 1787, asked the convention presiding officer George Washington to strengthen the requirements for the Presidency:

    “Permit me to hint, whether it would 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.” “”

    The ONLY possible way for John Jay, George Washington, et. al., to “strengthen the requirements for the Presidency” was to require that BOTH parents be citizens. The highest office would then have the highest requirements and the literal requirements are higher for president than senator, demonstrating gradation.

    The truth of Obama is being deliberately withheld from the public by the media because they want to influence and direct support for a political, ideological agenda. The media oppose and suppress the Constitution and the truth.
    YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE THE TRUTH. You just read it.

  2. John wrote “Please proceed, Mr. Sauce.”

    Jed, just clamp it.

    All of the bumpkins must have been watching reruns of their favorite television show when they decided to create the Tea Party: “Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.”

  3. Jill,

    That’s an interesting link, but it’s not quite what I was talking about.

    Here’s Glenn Greenwald’s expanded discussion on the topic:

    “One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

    Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”


  4. “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.”

    Thank you, Professor Turley for speaking the truth.

    All prior presidents likely wished they could suppress the press, but Obama has actually done so at record levels that cannot be denied.

    I do not like this precedent. For what future president, no matter the party, will willingly deviate from the course Obama has set against a free media?

  5. “One might notice that for three of these books, the New York Times seems to have been a part of ensuring these books were ignored and forgotten. Miller reflected on how reviews are used to discredit and marginalize books, sharing his own personal experience:

    [W]ith Fooled Again, my book about the theft of the 2004 election: I was really flabbergasted by the response—or non-response—to that book when it came out in 2005, after a major cover story in Harper’s. Although It was a major publisher that did it—Basic Books—and though it was, and is, a very meticulously documented study, which garnered laudatory blurbs from [Representative] John Conyers and a lot of people who aren’t nuts, Fooled Again was pointedly ignored by the media, and I couldn’t get any interviews on NPR, although I’d previously done them often, on all sorts of subjects.

    It seemed like he had been put on some kind of blacklist. Even the left attacked his book. Salon and Mother Jones did not like it. “It was written off as conspiracy theory,” a phrase which he notes has been deployed for years police dissident ideas, chill vital investigations and inhibit freedom of expression.”

    I’m going to put the link to this story in the next post.

  6. Personanongrata & Jill,

    I first came across the Smith-Mundt act while reading about Douglas Feith and his Office of Special Plans disseminating pro-Iraq war propaganda.

    Gene Howington, a former weekend blogger here, brought up the 2013 amendment to Smith-Mundt back in August of 2013.

    With the recent revelations of Snowden & Greenwald regarding online governmental propaganda schemes, I’m wondering if either of you have come across a good summary of this issue.

  7. Hey Laser;

    I read this blog often and never (until now I believe) comment. It’s fun to watch the thoughts of others both anonymous and named. It’s my “Days of our Lives”.
    At first, I agreed with many that you should stfu; but then I started looking at your links. Either you are one heck of a forger, or you have a bag of evidence against some very serious people.

    So, I’ve changed my mind and want to see and hear more. Will go to your websites and look at the evidence you have posted on that Citizen’s blog also. You can take solace in the fact that, in my particular case, I never would have known anything about Willard, until your postings.

    I regret voting for the man!

  8. Max-1 wrote “Court allows FBI to torture Americans abroad”

    Anyone seeking the truth should not watch RT or any other Kremlin-owned television station. Many times RT has been caught presenting lies as journalism. I need only give one outrageous example to prove my point, but I’ll give a few.
    – Pro-Separatists Mislead With Recycled Images
    – Bordering On Delusion: Where Are All The Russian Refugees?
    – How Russian Media Turned Construction Site Into ‘Concentration Camp’
    – Russian Media Coverage Of The Donetsk Attack On Pro-Ukraine Protesters
    – Russian TV Anchor Implies Jews Brought Holocaust On Themselves

  9. Bush looked Pootie Poot in the eye and discovered his good soul, but no elite journalists wrote him a letter.

    They were all in bed with the troops over in the murdered nation.

    So, preznit blush continued to continue bushisms and schisms aplenty:

    1. “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

    2. “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.”—Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

    3. “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”—Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

    4. “Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across the country.”—Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

    5. “Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican.”—declining to answer reporters’ questions at the Summit of the Americas, Quebec City, Canada, April 21, 2001

    6. “You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.”—Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

    7. “I’m the decider, and I decide what is best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.”—Washington, D.C., April 18, 2006

    8. “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”—Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

    9. “I’ve heard he’s been called Bush’s poodle. He’s bigger than that.”—discussing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as quoted by the Sun newspaper, June 27, 2007

    10. “And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq.”—meeting with Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008

    11. “We ought to make the pie higher.”—South Carolina Republican debate, Feb. 15, 2000

    12. “There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.”—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

    13. “And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it.”—speaking on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

    14. “We’ll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers.”—Houston, Sept. 6, 2000

    15. “It’s important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It’s not only life of babies, but it’s life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet.”—Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

    16. “One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.”—U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 3, 2000

    17. “People say, ‘How can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil?’ You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in’s house and say I love you.”—Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2002

    18. “Well, I think if you say you’re going to do something and don’t do it, that’s trustworthiness.”—CNN online chat, Aug. 30, 2000

    19. “I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep on the soil of a friend.”—on the prospect of visiting Denmark, Washington, D.C., June 29, 2005

    20. “I think it’s really important for this great state of baseball to reach out to people of all walks of life to make sure that the sport is inclusive. The best way to do it is to convince little kids how to—the beauty of playing baseball.”—Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 2006

    21. “Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.”—LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

    22. “You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war president. No president wants to be a war president, but I am one.”—Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 26, 2006

    23. “There’s a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, ‘I don’t want you to let me down again.’ “—Boston, Oct. 3, 2000

    24. “They misunderestimated me.”—Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

    25. “I’ll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office.”—Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008

    (Slatey Slate Slate).

  10. Max,
    You may have saved your grandfather’s life. After enduring an 85 year progressive indoctrination, it might have stopped his heart or given him a massive stroke to learn about our nation’s founding principles. You should feel proud to continue the progressive traditions that shun independent thought, self-reliance, reason and logic. Maybe there’s an app for that too!

  11. How can one expect anything decent and psychologically sophisticated from a guy whose body language is so full of arrogance, and lacks understanding about the human condition in the Universe (true humility comes from self knowledge…?)…who among us will be writing books on our own lives without having done anything significant first, or after (did Einstein write about his own life before or after the Special theory of Relativity?). It is a shame on us that this is the kind of character we have lifted to the highest office in the country.

  12. Just to clarify my last post-it referred to the mess in Iraq. It was referring to another YouTube video that followed the FBI torturing our own citizens abroad-that too is ludicrous!

  13. Way to go Obama! Just another fine Executive decision to leave a supposed ALLY high ‘n Dry!

  14. John Oliver,
    Here’s another example of “progress”.
    Background: spending a week with my father, a died in the wool conservative and consumer of FOXNews and media propaganda.

    The other night I told him, in conjunction of “how fast things are changing” (see proud post) about a discussion I attended where the speaker is a Native American Elder (a teach in during an Occupy event). In this teach in, she was examining how our culture is one bent on immediate gratification rather than forward thinking and how, when her Elders would get together to plan and make decisions they did so with the idea that the decisions they make are decisions that will affect the next ten generations. This way they bear responsibility of their decisions well long after they’ve passed. (FYI this should demonstrate a reverse progress in a society)

    So, today whe enjoying calm waters on a lake when the temperature was topping 95, I showed him a website on my iPhone that can predict average mean temperatures of today versus what they will be in the year 2100. Knowing that he’s bought into the immediate gratification of NOW and measuring his personal success accordingly and his past demonstration of disbelief in Global Climate Change he stated, “well I won’t be around, so?” I then repeated, “the year 2100… In 85 years.” He paused… Then began to ask, “who’s kids would that affect?” “Maria’s (his grand child) grand children, dad,” I said. “Your great, great grand children will be affected.” His response, “Oh!”

    … Progress.

  15. A Nation of Cowards?

    The CIA in particular and more recently U.S. special operators have made global kidnappings — oops, renditions — a regular beat since 9/11. A kind of rampage, actually. As it happens, whatever it can’t do these days, the “sole superpower” still has the ability to make the global rules to its own liking. So when we wield the “R” word, it couldn’t be more “legal” or at least, as U.S. experts will testify, the only reasonable way to go. Of course, when others wield the “K” word, can there be any question of the nastiness or illegality of their acts? Here’s a guarantee: not a chance. Any judge-jury-and-executioner-rolled-into-one approach to the world (as with, for instance, the CIA’s drone assassination campaigns) is an ugly way to go and will look even uglier when other countries adopt the latest version of the American Way. As with torture (oops, sorry again, “enhanced interrogation techniques”), making global kidnapping your loud and proud way of life is a dangerous path to take, long term, no matter how bad the bad guys are that you may be rendering to justice.

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