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SPJ president: 'Stop playing games with White House press credentials'


J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ National President, 212-283-0843, atarquinio@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists continues to be dismayed and concerned with the White House’s treatment of the press after the revoking of press credentials from several journalists who regularly cover it, including Washington Post reporter and columnist Dana Milbank.

We are concerned about the lack of press briefings, leaving fewer chances to ask questions and get information, and the constant attempts to delegitimize journalism.

"This administration needs to stop playing games with White House press credentials," said SPJ National President J. Alex Tarquinio.

"By changing the criteria and selectively applying the new rules, their actions fly in the face of the widely-accepted principles of press freedom and the Fourth Estate as a necessary watchdog of government."

So far, the White House Correspondents Association has declined to comment. The Washington Post also reported that the WHCA had been consulted about the new guidelines and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the measure was to curb the as many as 1,000 passes they believe are in circulation.

Milbank, who wrote that he has had the press pass for 21 years, reported that under new White House press pass rules, to qualify for the highest level of access, or “hard pass,” journalists had to be present in the White House for at least 90 days of a 180-day timeframe. Milbank wrote that nearly the entire press corps failed to meet the new test. They then had to apply for an exception or settle for passes that don’t allow as much access. This included freelance videographers and technicians who rely on covering the White House for their main source of income. Milbank failed the test, he suspects, because he is a Trump critic.

It has now been 59 days since the White House had a press briefing. Taxpayers should be just as worried as journalists that the White House spokesperson, who is funded by taxpayer money, is not available for regularly scheduled briefings to talk about the news of the day – and there is plenty of news to discuss. This means, ultimately, that journalists -- who are the eyes and ears of the public -- are not able to as readily relay important information that citizens of this country need to know.

This latest action of revoking the “hard pass” of many journalists who have been covering the White House for decades only adds to the lack of transparency and open government upon which the United States of America was founded.

It is the duty of journalists – and the American public – to ensure their elected officials are doing the best job possible for their community and country.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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