Obama fails on press freedoms

The Obama government is no closer to a transparent relationship with journalists than the Bush administration was, says a new report released on US press freedoms last week.

The report, prepared by the Committee to Protect Journalists, criticised the administration for failing to uphold its promise to be more open and honest with journalists than its predecessor.

“In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press,” writes Leonard Downie, a former executive editor of The Washington Post and author of the new report.

“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.”

In his report, Mr Downie interviewed reports and editors after it emerged the Obama administration had seized the records for telephone lines and switchboards used by more than 100 journalists.

He said he spoke to journalists who were suspected of discussing classified information.  He revealed they were increasingly subject to investigation, lie detector tests, scrutiny of communication and even surveillance.

Obama administration press secretary Jay Carney said complaints about transparency were just a part of the natural relationship between the White House and the press.

“The idea that people are shutting up and not leaking to reporters is belied by the facts,” he said.

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