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“The Most Closed, Control Freak Administration I\’ve Ever Covered”

October 10, 2013
President Obama meeting the media (Courtesy CPJ)

A report released, Thursday, denounced the administration of US President Barack Obama for imposing curbs on government transparency though a range of methods that include denying the media access to harmless information by marking it classified and by administration officials refusing interviews to reporters. In his report for the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) former Washington Post managing editor, Leonard Downie, has also revealed the chilling effect pervasive surveillance and harsh punishments under the Espionage Act has on news sources leaking information on government wrongdoing.

Based on a series of interviews with senior US journalists Downie’s report, “The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America” has a number of juicy quotes that highlight the frustration of journalists about the restrictions placed on covering government affairs. It quotes David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times, saying, “this is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered.”
The report was sent to Obama accompanied by a letter co-signed by CPJ Chairperson Sandra Rowe and Executive Director Joel Simon with six recommendationsincluding guarantees that journalists in receipt of confidential information would not be prosecuted and on implementing the Justice Department’s guidelines on “overly-broad, and/or secret subpoenas of journalists’ records.”
The White House however pushed back saying that Obama had given more interviews in his four-plus years to news, digital and entertainment media than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did in their respective first terms combined. The report also quoted the White House press secretary Jay Carnie saying, “The idea that people are shutting up and not leaking to reporters is belied by the facts.”
In his interview to Huffington Post Downie, who now teaches journalism at the University of Arizona expressed disappointment on Obama not delivering on campaign promises he made on government transparency.
“What I see here is that Obama campaigned against excessive secrecy, promised to have the most transparent government in American history, signed presidential directives in his first day of office with a lot of fanfare, continues to say in speeches and interviews and press conferences that transparency is a high priority for him, and it hasn’t happened. It doesn’t matter if he’s a Republican or Democrat. It matters what he has promised and has not delivered,” Downie said.
Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.