WASHINGTON — Dozens of journalism and open-government organizations sent a letter to President Barack Obama Tuesday calling on the administration to order federal agencies to cooperate in releasing information to the public.
The letter from 38 organizations provides concrete examples of what the groups called “excessive information control,” likening it to censorship.
These included blocking reporters’ request to interview specific staff people in federal agencies, excessive delays in answering requests for interviews, the insistence of government officials of speaking anonymously to convey public information and “blackballing” reporters who are critical of agencies.
The 38 groups signing the letter included well-known organizations such as the Society of Professional Journalists and the Online News Association and lesser known groups such as the Student Press Law Center. Pro-transparency groups such as Open the Government and the Project on Government Oversight were also signatories.
“The stifling of free expression is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring in a ‘new era of openness’ to federal government,” the letter read.
It added, “This is not a ‘press vs. government’ issue. This is about fostering a strong democracy where people have the information they need to self-govern and trust in government institutions.”