Dozens of journalism and open-government groups are urging President Obama to reverse media policies that they say amount to censorship and information suppression within his administration.
A letter sent last week to the president outlines examples of "information suppression." According to the letter, signed by 53 organizations, officials block reporters' requests to talk to specific staffers, delay answering requests until reporters' deadlines have passed, refuse to talk on the record and block reporters who write critically of the agencies.
For example, employees of the Food and Drug Administration, were forbidden to speak to reporters without being monitored by public information officers and other staffers about allegations that the agency had violated rules for storing smallpox and other dangerous materials.
"When researchers, administrators and experts cannot speak freely, it becomes impossible to get a full and honest picture of a government program or policy. Such secrecy only fuels distrust and gives members of the public a right to wonder what is being done in their name, with their money," Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors, said in a statement about the letter.
Beth Parke, executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists, added, "Readers, viewers and listeners rely on local media. What's safe to drink when a spill causes a water crisis? When press officers block access to people who could answer detailed questions, there are consequences — for public health and for democracy."
The organizations — including the Freedom of the Press Foundation, PEN American Center and the Sunlight Foundation — are criticizing a president who pledged to create the most open and accessible administration in history. Obama said in his inauguration address that he would achieve "unprecedented levels of openness in government."
Over the past few years, the administration has taken some steps to make government data more available for public consumption. For example, it issued a 2013 executive order to make open and machine-readable data the default for government.
But the groups that wrote the letter say the administration's "transparency" initiatives fall short.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
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An earlier version of this story misidentified the organization where Beth Parke serves as executive director. The Sun regrets the error.