Silence reigns in the Administration’s response to criticisms of restrictions on access to the federal government. Last month, the Project On Government Oversight was one of 38 journalism and open government groups that urged President Obama to stop practices in federal agencies that prevent important information from getting to the public. In the July 8 letter (with retroactive signatures bringing the total number of supporting organizations to 48), groups called on the President “to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in.”
The letter calls for changes to practices of excessive information control, drawing attention specifically to policies that restrict journalists from “communicating with staff without going through public information offices, requiring government PIOs [public information officers] to vet interview questions and monitoring interviews between journalists and sources,” as POGO explained on the blog.
Examples of restrictions include officials blocking reporter requests for interviews, excessive delays that stretch past reporter deadlines, officials refusing to speak on record, and blackballing of reporters who write critically of that agency. Restricting journalist access to government staff greatly constricts the flow of information to the public, making the Administration’s promise of “creating an unprecedented level of openness” far less believable.
Unfortunately, the recent response from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest falls far short of addressing our concerns. In fact, in what the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) called “typical spin and response through non-response,” the Press Secretary’s response says next to nothing about journalist access to government staff.
Feds Blame ‘Confusion’ for Choking Businesses’ Access to Banks
Federal regulators have backed away from pressuring banks to stop doing business with legal enterprises that the Obama administration labeled “high risk” — including selling guns, making payday loans, and trading in rare coins.
Late last month, the Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation told banks that it had removed a list of 30 examples of “high risk” activities from the agency’s website, stating its list had “led to misunderstandings.”
By “misunderstandings,” FDIC apparently meant that its guidance led to sudden decisions by banks across America to close accounts with customers that fell under any of the listed categories.