The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

July 10, 2014

Transparency lacking with Obama

Why it matters: Political leaders are shutting down news organizations' and the public's access to much of the public business

Critics have long argued the Obama administration has adopted an increasingly tight management of messages coming from itself and the myriad federal agencies it oversees.

Now it appears this level of information suppression has risen to “control freak” status. Dozens of open government groups and news organizations are demanding the Obama administration live up to the president’s earlier exhortations to bring a “new era of openness to the federal government.”

Some 37 media and good government organizations have petitioned the Obama administration to put a halt to what the groups sees as suppression of information, gagging of knowledgeable sources and public relations guard dogs involved in meetings between journalists and knowledgeable staff.

The Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the National Newspaper Association and dozens of other organizations have asked the Obama administration to call for an end to the suppression tactics, the blocking of access and the demand for previewed questions that have become commonplace across federal agencies.

They’ve asked that an ombudsman’s office be established and that there be an appeal system set up for challenging the stonewalling actions of federal bureaucrats who seem bent on denying rather than providing the public with public information.

The groups cite numerous examples of bureaucrats blocking access or reviewing questions before interviews. A New York Times reporter doing an important story on myriad changes to the Medicare billing system was not allowed to talk to staff with knowledge of it. A reporter for an online news organization attempted for six weeks to get someone at the Environmental Protection Agency to answer questions about a hazardous waste mishandling in Buffalo, N.Y. After a month of trying to get a response from the Environmental Protection Agency on the small topic of Climate Change, a Reuters reporter had to eventually go over the heads of bureaucrats who wouldn’t talk about the agency’s positions.

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