Thirty-seven groups, including OpenTheGovernment.org, joined the Society of Professional Journalists to urge President Obama to reverse the decades-long decline of press access to agencies and the executive offices. The groups note:
Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely. When public affairs officers speak, even about routine public matters, they often do so confidentially in spite of having the title “spokesperson.” Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers. Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis.
The groups urge President Obama to lift restraints on communications and encourage federal workers to speak with the press and to estbalish an ombudsman to oversee the implementation of the administration's transparency promises.