Media groups protest lack of photo and video access to Obama

ASNE, APME and a host of other organizations protested Thursday the lack of access to photograph and video President Barack Obama performing official duties. We wrote about this issue on Oct. 30, 2013..

November 21, 2013

Dear Members of the American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Media Editors:

For decades, American news photographers have captured iconic moments in and around the White House: President Kennedy, from behind in silhouette in the days before the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Carter, triumphantly joining hands with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin at the signing of the Camp David Accords. President Reagan, walking out of the Oval Office for the final time. President George W. Bush, taking counsel from President George H.W. Bush along the White House Colonnade.

These presidents have recognized that photographic access by the public's press to their leader is essential to Americans' trust in the workings of government.

But not this president. The administration of President Obama is routinely denying the right of independent journalists to photograph or videotape the president while he is performing official duties. Instead, the White House is issuing visual press releases - handout pictures taken by official government photographers - and expecting news outlets to publish those.

These are not instances where national security is at stake, but rather, presidential activities of a fundamentally public nature. In recent months, these restricted events have included President Obama meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with African-American clergy, and with Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai.

In each case, the White House deemed the events "private," but then sent its own photographs to the press and directly to the public over social media. This is, we are sure you will agree, unacceptable practice, raising both constitutional and ethical concerns. These photographs are, in essence, government propaganda tailored to serve the president's interests and not the public's.

Today, a coalition of press organizations, including ASNE, APME, the White House Correspondents Association and many others, delivered a letter to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney expressing our concerns about this practice and asking for an immediate meeting to discuss those concerns.

In the meantime, we must accept that we, the press, have been enablers. We urge those of you in news organizations to immediately refrain from publishing any of the photographs or videos released by the White House, just as you would refuse to run verbatim a press release from them. We urge those of you in journalism education to highlight this issue in your classrooms. And we urge those with editorial pages to educate and activate the public on this important issue.

Sincerely,

David Boardman         Debra Adams Simmons

ASNE President         APME President

Others signing the letter protesting the lack of access include:

The AP, ABC News, Agence France-Presse, American Society of News Editors, American Society of Media Photographers, Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, Association of Opinion Journalists, Bloomberg News, CBS News, CNN, Dow Jones & Company, Inc., Fox News Channel, Gannett Co., Inc., Getty Images, Lee Enterprises, Incorporated, The McClatchy Company, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, National Press Club, National Press Photographers Association, NBC News, New England First Amendment Coalition, News Media Coalition, Newspaper Association of America, The New York Times Company, Online News Association, Professional Photographers of America, Radio Television Digital News Association, Regional Reporters Association, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reuters, Society of Professional Journalists, Tribune Company, The Washington Post, White House Correspondents' Association, White House News Photographers Association, Yahoo Inc.