- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

About 40 different news groups have joined forces to demand the White House answer this one question: Where’s all the open government that President Obama promised?

In a letter sent last week, followed by a meeting among White House officials and members of the press, the media groups complained about restrictions that have been placed on photographers whose primary job descriptions are to take pictures of the president, the Los Angeles Times reported. Only thing is: The White House won’t grant them access, preferring instead to send out photos that have been snapped by their own, in-house photographer.

The practice is tantamount to propaganda, the news organizations complained.

Or, in the words of their letter: The restrictions on accessing the president create “a troubling precedent with a direct and adverse impact on the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing.”

Among those complaining are the White House Correspondents Association and the Tribune Company, the L.A. Times reported.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said in an email, reported by the L.A. Times, that the administration was “working to address some of the concerns raised by photographers covering the White House. We certainly do not believe that official photos released by the White House are a substitute for the work of independent journalists.”

He also said that “like every White House in the modern era, we use the tools available to us to provide information and insight to the public about the president.”

But news photographers say in the L.A. Times that the Obama administration restrictions go far beyond what’s been inflicted on media outlets by prior administrations. Mr. Obama’s staffers, for instance, routinely label events “private” or hold events at venues that are too small and confining for photographers to work — and then the White House turns around and releases its own photos of the gathering. That in itself shows the event was never really private in the first place, the news groups argue.

The story has been gathering steam in recent weeks — partly because Mr. Obama took office on a vow to keep his government open and transparent.