Despite proclaiming himself to be the “most transparent” President in history, a joint conference of some of the nation’s top journalists criticized Barak Obama’s administration Wednesday as being “significantly worse than previous administrations,” including that of George W. Bush, when it comes to public transparency and press intimidation.
At a gathering in Chicago, the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers spoke out on what they see as an alarming trend, the expansion of secrecy into all areas of American life.
Said Brian Carovillano, Associated Press managing editor for U.S. news, “The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations—from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events.”
Contributing to the unprecedented levels of dis-information is the administration’s intimidation tactics, which AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee alleges can lead to a government employee being fired for simply speaking with a member of the press.
“Day-to-day intimidation of sources is extremely chilling,” she commented during a panel discussion.
James Risen, a New York Times reporter facing Federal prison for refusing to divulge an anonymous source, added that the government is taking advantage of a media industry off-balance due to the rise of online news outlets and a dramatic fall in revenue.
Asked if these tactics would be undertaken had the press been on firmer footing, as in decades past, Risen commented, “I think the answer is no.”
He added, however, “Media shouldn’t shrink before the challenge. The only response is to do even more aggressive investigative reporting.”
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said in an emailed response that the administration had “absolutely” lived up to its transparency pledge.
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