The White House Correspondents' Association and other media organizations in a letter Thursday demanded that the administration end its practice of barring photojournalists from events where President Obama's surrogates release photos of their own.
In the age of new media, the White House has consistently made Images available to the public from events that journalists were not allowed to attend.
“Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the president while he is performing his official duties,” the WHCA and other media organizations said in a letter Thursday to White House press secretary Jay Carney.
“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,” the letter from the WHCA, American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Press Managing Editors and other media groups added.
White House officials counter that certain events are private and don't require media access. If such a claim were true, the media groups responded, photos would not be released from such events.
For example, Chief White House photographer Pete Souza snapped a shot of Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a recent lunch they shared at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Despite protests from the White House press corps, traditional media was not allowed at the high-profile event.
Responding to the letter, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House has "used a range of new technology" to provide "greater access to the president."
Media and government watchdog groups charge that the White House's habit of barring journalists from events of public importance undermines Obama's pledge to run the most transparent administration in U.S. history.
“Previous administrations have recognized this, and have granted press access to visually cover precisely these types of events, thus creating government transparency,” the letter says. “It is clear that the restrictions imposed by your office on photographers undercuts the president’s stated desire to continue and broaden that tradition.”
However, the White House has dismissed such complaints.
When pressed on the issue recently, Carney reportedly told journalists, “Oh, so now we're like Stalin?”
Yahoo White House correspondent Olivier Knox replied, "It's not funny, Jay."