By Hannah Fölsz
On Friday 24th February, the White House blocked a number of news outlets from attending a “gaggle,” an informal press briefing held by Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary. This was a highly unusual and controversial move from the Trump administration, and was met with outrage, many condemning it as a violation of the free press.
The “gaggle” took place instead of a daily briefing and was scheduled to be an on-camera event. Among the news organisations whose reporters were refused entry are CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed. While they were not permitted to attend the briefing, numerous outlets, often with much smaller readership, were granted access, such as Breitbart News, the Washington Times, Fox News and the One America News Network.
Time and the Associated Press were allowed access but stayed away in protest. Bloomberg made its recording of the briefing public for those media organisations that were not allowed to attend. While a shared characteristic of the outlets banned is being highly critical of the new President, the outlets granted access are generally sympathetic to the new administration.
This surprising move comes after, earlier that day at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Trump launched another attack on news media and ‘fake news’. He called reporters ‘dishonest’ and ‘fake,’ and spoke up against the use of anonymous sources in news reports concerning his administration, also declaring that much of the media was “the enemy of the American people.” According to America’s National Press Club, this handpicking of media outlets is not only unusual but also unconstitutional. The club’s president, Jeffrey Ballou, stated that, with this exclusion, “the White House is actively running a campaign against a constitutionally enshrined free and independent press”. With new levels of public outrage and protest following this decision, many ask how long such disturbing and impulsive acts from the new US President will be tolerated by the public.
Photograph: Michael Vadon via flickr.