The Associated Press' (AP) photography director attacked the Obama administration's policy of denying photo-journalists access to the president, comparing it to visual "propaganda."
The "President who campaigned on promise of most transparency has tightest control over access for PJs," tweeted photo-journalist Greg Kendall-Ball, whose twitter handle is @gregkb. Kendall-Ball was attending the AP Media Editor's national conference in Indianapolis, Ind., and he attributed this statement to Santiago Lyon, vice president of the AP and the wire service's director of photography, who spoke on Wednesday. Lyon (@slyon66) retweeted Kendall-Ball's tweet, apparently confirming its accuracy.
"White House official photos = visual press release," Kendall-Ball added, attributing both this statement and the follow-up question "Propaganda in America?" to Lyon. Lyon retweeted this as well.
The AP has only been permitted to photograph President Obama in the Oval Office on two occasions, both in Obama's first term, the Daily Caller's Robby Soave reported. All other pictures of Obama in his office were taken by White House photographers and given to the press as a "visual press release."
"This works because newspapers use these handout photos," AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll said, according to conference attendee Jack Lail, digital editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel. Lail added that Carroll told newspaper editors to avoid using the White House's preferred photos going forward.
Last month, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued its first report on press freedoms in the U.S., which revealed "a comprehensive survey of the multiple ways that the Obama presidency has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for journalists and sources alike, one that severely threatens the news-gathering process."
The report claimed that an "'Insider Threat Program' being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues."
"The administration's war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate," former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., said in the report.
"Capitalizing on the possibilities of the digital age, the Obama White House is generating its own content like no president before," an AP report in April alleged. The report claimed the administration actively seeks to hide all of his blemishes and bloopers to present a perfect, pristine image to the world.
While this white-washing may be legitimate, it's only half of the story, the AP report argued. "At the same time, [the Obama Administration] is limiting press access in ways that past administrations wouldn't have dared." To demonstrate this unprecedented degree of defensive PR, the AP brought in Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary to President Bill Clinton. McCurry testified to tactics "I never would have dreamed of in terms of restricting access" for independent news outlets.
The AP did not respond to requests for comment or for a video of Lyon's remarks.