The Obama administration has “absolutely” lived up to its pledge to be transparent, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told CNN’s Brian Stelter Sunday. “I think the president’s record of transparency stands up to any of the records of his predecessors,” Earnest said.
Stelter asked Earnest about a letter signed by representatives of journalism organizations, including Poynter President Tim Franklin, outlining complaints about access to government sources. It reads in part:
Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely. When public affairs officers speak, even about routine public matters, they often do so confidentially in spite of having the title “spokesperson.” Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers. Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis.
“They’re all journalists,” Earnest said. “The day that they stop, the day that they sort of sit back and say, you know, we don’t need to write a letter, the White House is telling us everything that they’re supposed to, is the day that they’re no longer doing their jobs.”
In reply to a question from Stelter about the administration’s prosecution of leakers (it has used the Espionage Act in prosecutions seven times, more than all previous administrations combined, secretly seized AP phone records and referred to a Fox News reporter as a “co-conspirator” in one leak case), Earnest cited the White House’s release of visitor data and information about fund-raisers the president has attended.
Related: Risen: Obama administration is this generation’s ‘greatest enemy of press freedom’ (Poynter) | Jill Abramson: ‘This is the most secretive White House I have ever dealt with’ (Politico) | Photojournalists want better access to the White House (Poynter)