White House photogs seek more access

Nearly 40 news outlets and organizations signed a letter Thursday urging the White House to relax its restrictions on news photographers when covering the president. 

The group, including major wire services and TV networks, said the White House is replacing “photojournalism with visual press releases” by barring photographers from certain meetings at the White House, then releasing its own photos of the events through social media. 

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“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 group said in the letter to White House press secretary Jay Carney. 

The group requested a meeting to further discuss the issue. The letter holds that the White House restrictions might be raising constitutional concerns regarding the First Amendment as well. 

The group listed seven meetings with Obama in 2013 in which photographers were barred because the meetings were private — including a number of meetings between Obama and members of Congress. 

The news outlets said that argument is undermined when the White House subsequently releases photos from the meetings from its own photographer. 

The group said previous administrations have allowed access to these types of events, and the restrictions fly in the face of the administration’s commitment to broaden that tradition. 

“To exclude the press from these functions is a major break from how previous administrations have worked with the press,” the letter reads.