Leading news organizations have written to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, protesting restrictions on taking pictures and video of President Obama performing official duties. The access limits have caused two other groups to urge their members to boycott handout photos and video from the White House.
"As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist's camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government," says the letter by the White House Correspondents' Association and 37 news organizations.
The three-page letter cites recent examples of photographers being restricted from covering presidential events that were deemed "private," but the White House later released its own photos of the same events, The Associated Press reports.
The media houses have also urged Carney for a meeting to restore full access to journalists covering the White House.
In their letter sent Thursday, the news organizations pointed out that the Obama administration has taken a departure from its predecessors, and the limits appear to be infringing on First Amendment press freedoms. They called the restrictions as having "a direct and adverse impact on the public's ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing."
The access limits, the media houses said, are against Obama's promise of a more transparent government. They impose "an arbitrary restraint and unwarranted interference on legitimate newsgathering activities," the letter said.
Meanwhile, the heads of the American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Media Editors urged their members not to use handout photos and video from the White House.
"We must accept that we, the press, have been enablers," the two coalitions have written in a letter to their members. "We urge those of you in news organizations to immediately refrain from publishing any of the photographs or videos released by the White House, just as you would refuse to run verbatim a press release from them."
However, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest sought to underplay the protests. "The fact that there is a little bit of a disagreement between the press corps and the White House press office about how much access the press corps should have to the president is built into the system," he was quoted as saying. "If that tension didn't exist, then either you or we aren't doing our jobs."
Earnest praised the White House about its range of "new technology to provide people greater access to the president," saying, "To the American public, it's a clear win."