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Trump administration locks out the media, retreats into secrecy

Locked-Out Media Watch While Trump Administration Retreats Into Secrecy MEDIA MATTERS, Blog ››› March 9, 2017  ERIC BOEHLERT“We want to ensure at all times, if confirmed, that the secretary of state and the State Department is fully transparent with the public.” – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at his January 11, 2017, confirmation hearing.

On Tuesday, bureau chiefs for major news organizations held a conference call to discuss the fact that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not going to allow the press to travel with him on his plane during an upcoming trip to Asia. According to Poynter.org, which reported on the call, not allowing reporters on Tillerson’s government plane would be would be “very unusual, if not unprecedented, certainly in recent annals, with substantial access given by recent Secretaries of State, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.”

As Poynter explained, “[T]he logistics of keeping up with [Tillerson] by assembling stringers or hopscotching about on commercials flights makes coverage exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.” According to CNN, a senior official “told reporters Tuesday Tillerson prefers to travel on a smaller plane and ‘carries a much smaller footprint.'” Tillerson’s plan to exclude the press from traveling with him overseas represents a stunning State Department policy reversal, while further cementing his image as a secretive cabinet figure who has had virtually no contact with journalists since being sworn in. “The secretary of state has given only a handful of prepared statements to the press and has not taken any questions,” CNN noted.

That veil of secrecy has quickly emerged as the hallmark for this shadowy administration.

It’s important to note that while President Trump’s ongoing war on the press has received most of the attention this year as he threatens journalists and restricts their access, there are plenty of indications that the rampant secrecy and disdain for transparency is widespread. “The retreat from the press has taken place administration-wide,” Politico noted.

There seems to be a collective closing of the gates now underway in terms of the federal government separating itself from journalists.

Just look at what unfolded on Monday:

  • Tillerson, along with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, held an event with journalists to announce the administration’s latest attempt to restrict travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries. But none of the men responded to press questions about the controversial initiative.
  • Unlike how the administration treated the original travel ban signing, Trump signed the revised travel ban executive order without photographers or reporters present to record the event.
  • When the White House held a background conference call with reporters to discuss the updated travel ban it did not identify officials on the call, which prompted a New York Times reporter to tweet:

Been on dozens of background conference calls: DOJ/DOS/DHS call was first time I’ve been on 1 where officials didn’t give their names.

The next day, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell was escorted from a photo-op with Tillerson and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin after trying to ask several questions. The questions were “met with silence.”

All of that constitutes an historic effort by the Trump administration to lock out the press from the government’s official duties and business.

This, of course, comes after the White House’s radical move to banish several major news outlets from a press “gaggle,” likely because the administration was unhappy with what the organizations were reporting. What followed was a highly unusual, weeklong blackout in terms of televised press briefings from White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

That drawing of the curtain is part of a larger administration effort to march back transparency. For instance, in recent weeks there’s been a paucity of senior administration officials available for on-the-record interviews. Traditionally, senior officials, including cabinet members, have been made available for in-depth interviews, especially on the Sunday morning shows. But not the Trump team.

The White House seems to have specifically singled out CNN, repeatedly, and refused to provide officials for interviews there……..https://mediamatters.org/blog/2017/03/09/locked-out-media-watch-while-trump-administration-retreats-secrecy/215610

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March 11, 2017 - Posted by | media, USA

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