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White House press blasts Obama administration on access

Last Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 13:59

Washington: White House reporters and photographers on Friday accused top officials of deliberately blocking access to President Barack Obama and of substituting its own "visual press releases" for independent news coverage.

In a letter to White House spokesman Jay Carney, the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) and other news organisations said the practice belied the administration`s frequent claims to a new level of transparency.

The letter registered alarm that the White House bans coverage of Obama at certain events, deeming them private, but later releases photographs and videos from its own in-house news and public relations operation.

"Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties," the letter said.

"As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist`s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government."

"You are, in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases," the letter told Carney, calling the practice a "troubling break from tradition."

White House photographers have long been frustrated at the activities of White House official photographer Pete Souza who has distributed hundreds of candid shots of Obama and other officials in meetings and settings from which the press is barred.

The shots go out on a Flickr feed, Instagram and Twitter, where Souza has 94,000 followers.

The letter listed a half dozen recent instances where news coverage has been banned of events the WHCA considers of great public interest, for which photographers were barred and official photos were released.

They include a meeting between Obama and the co-chairs of the US-China Strategic and Economic dialogue in July and talks the same month between the president and Vice President Joe Biden and Middle East peace negotiators.

The list also included a meeting between the president and First Lady Michelle Obama and Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai in the Oval Office in October.

First Published: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 13:59
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