White House rejects press access complaints

The White House said Thursday it is not trying to replace photojournalists by restricting access to some meetings and releasing its own photos of President Obama. 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would not condone other countries using a government employee as a replacement for a member of the press, but he asserted that is not the case here. 

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“Here's what we would take a dim view toward: if there were another country who were using a government employee as a substitute for an independent professional journalist. And that's just not something that we'd [do] — that is the clear difference,” he said. 

Earnest said the White House is actually offering more access. 

“So I understand why that is a source of some consternation to people in this room, but to the American public, that's a clear win,” he said. 

Nearly 40 news outlets and organizations signed a letter Thursday saying previous administrations have allowed more access to meetings for press photographers, and the restrictions fly in the face of the administration’s commitment to broaden that tradition. 

Earnest argued that it is not feasible to allow members of the press into meetings where the president is discussing classified information, for example The Situation Room. 

However, the letter 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 White House then released photos of those meetings through social media. 

“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 White House said it is fully committed to giving access to the press and the conflict is built into the system. 

“So the fact that there is a little bit of a disagreement between the press corps and the White House press office about how much access the press corps should have to the president is built into the system,” he said. 

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