President Obama announced to the world in a Google Hangout in February 2013 that his administration was “the most transparent administration in history.” But Americans and the press aren’t fooled. Josh Hicks at the Washington Post noted the Obama administration’s transparency problems back in March of this year:
An Associated Press analysis of federal data found that the Obama administration has grown more secretive over time, last year censoring or outright denying FOIA access to government files more than ever since Obama took office.
The administration has also cited more legal exceptions to justify withholding materials and refused to turn over newsworthy files quickly, and most agencies took longer to answer records requests, according to the AP study.
Now that Obama’s transparency claims have been thoroughly debunked, and — as the AP analysis reveals — the administration is actually becoming more secretive, what will the press do?
For most of Obama’s time in office, the press has been incredibly lenient, covering Obama favorably when possible. Accuracy in Media called the media’s coverage of Obama a “love affair” in a post last year, and Fred Barnes likened press coverage to a “four-year honeymoon” around the same time.
But the honeymoon may finally be over. The Washington Examiner reports:
In unprecedented criticism of the White House, 38 journalism groups have assailed the president’s team for censoring media coverage, limiting access to top officials and overall “politically-driven suppression of the news.”
In a letter to President Obama, the 38, led by the Society of Professional Journalists, said efforts by government officials to stifle or block coverage has grown for years and reached a high-point under his administration despite Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to provide transparency.
Worse, they said: As access for reporters has been cut off, the administration has opened the door to lobbyists, special interests and “people with money.”
And as a result, they wrote, Obama only has himself to blame for the current cynicism of his administration. “You need look no further than your own administration for a major source of that frustration – politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. We call on you to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in,” wrote David Cuillier, president of SPJ.
Groups who signed onto the letter include UNITY Journalists for Diversity, an organization that promotes fair and accurate reporting about diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, the Student Press Law Center, an organization that promotes freedom of the press among students, and Defending Dissent Foundation, an organization whose focus is on civil liberties, among others.
The letter concludes:
The undersigned organizations ask that you seek an end to this restraint on communication in federal agencies. We ask that you issue a clear directive telling federal employees they’re not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so. We believe that is one of the most important things you can do for the nation now, before the policies become even more entrenched.
We also ask you provide an avenue through which any incidents of this suppression of communication may be reported and corrected. Create an ombudsman to monitor and enforce your stated goal of restoring transparency to government and giving the public the unvarnished truth about its workings. That will go a long way toward dispelling Americans’ frustration and cynicism before it further poisons our democracy.
Obama’s claim that his administration is the most transparent in history is an absolute joke, and it’s time the press start holding him accountable. Kudos to these organizations for putting pressure on President Obama.