State Department: Reporter’s removal was ‘standard procedure’

State Department: Reporter’s removal was ‘standard procedure’
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The State Department on Monday declined to say that its officials did anything wrong when a reporter was removed from a room with Secretary John KerryJohn Forbes KerryTrump puts the cart before the horse in Palestine John Kerry: Play based on Mueller report is 'an act of public service' Will we ever have another veteran as president? MORE and the president of Uzbekistan after asking a question about human rights.

Instead, spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said that the incident appeared to be “part of a standard procedure.”

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“People were being ushered out of the room at the end of the photo spray,” Trudeau, the director of the office of press relations, told reporters during a daily briefing.

“Photo sprays are very different from standard press conference where reporters can ask questions,” she maintained. During photo sprays, which tend to be brief, officials typically offer a short statement at either the beginning or end of an important meeting.

“However, we’re not perfect,” she added. “We’re going to take a look at what happened,” and review any possible ways to improve in the future.

On Sunday, Washington Post reporter Carol Morello was physically escorted out of a meeting between Kerry and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, after asking a question about “the human rights situation” in Uzbekistan. 

The reporter’s question came as other reporters were being ushered out of the meeting.

In a video of the incident, an unidentified official presumed to be an American can be heard saying, in English, “Take her out.”

High-profile officials often decline to answer questions during brief photo sprays. Yet the incident with The Post reporter raised concerns that the U.S. was assisting Uzbekistan in limiting freedom of the press.

Uzbekistan is accused of having an "atrocious" record on human rights, and freedom of speech protections are “systematically ignored,” according to democracy advocacy group Freedom House.

“Her removal had nothing to do with the content of the question,” Trudeau insisted on Monday. “It was a logistical issue." 

Monday, Trudeau noted, was the second annual United Nations day to end impunity for crimes against journalists.

“We take this opportunity to reaffirm our unwavering support for the work of reporters worldwide,” she said. “The United States will continue to prioritize the safety and security of journalists on this day, and everyday.”

Kerry was in Uzbekistan as part of a five-nation tour through Central Asia.

He raised issues of human rights “at every stop,” Trudeau said.