Journalists blast White House photo restrictions: ‘In this administration, secrecy is the norm’

Two veteran Washington journalists kept up pressure on the Obama administration Friday over unprecedented press photographer restrictions, with a former New York Times reporter claiming that “in this administration, secrecy is the norm.”

Judith Miller, a longtime former reporter at the New York Times, spoke with Fox News’ Jon Scott and Lynn Sweet, the current DC bureau chief of the Chicago Sun Times, about President Obama’s refusal to allow any non-government photographers from taking pictures during his long flight to South Africa earlier this week.

The White House press corp had exploded in anger over the issue during a briefing with White House spokesman Jay Carney the day before. (RELATED: Carney gives press photographers the finger)

Scott suggested that the restricted access is a long-term trend for this president:

SCOTT: For instance, Lynn, on the very first day he was in office, the very first day he is sitting there behind the Resolute Desk, the only pictures that were allowed by President Obama and his administration came from his personal White House photographer. He didn’t let the press in. Why?

SWEET: Well, I think the answer is that the White House communications people want to control every message, whether it is visual or not.

Miller agreed with Sweet’s interpretation and took it further.

“The issue is, who makes the call about what’s interesting to the American people?” she asked. “Is it the White House itself, which is the way they would prefer it? Or is it an independent press taking moments, reporting them, snapping images that perhaps the White House doesn’t want us to see?”

“That’s what is going on here,” she added, her voice rising. “And in this instance, in this administration, secrecy is the norm!”

Sweet noted that by restricting many events to White House photographers alone, the president is able to massage his public image to his liking. “It is just a matter of letting the working press — who aren’t there necessarily to glamorize or sanitize a picture — have some access to record the history of the presidency,” she claimed.

She also mocked Carney’s claim that new social media technologies merited a review of White House photographer access policies.

“It isn’t about whether the White House puts up photos on Flickr or Instagram or whatever they want,” she continued. “They can put a million photos up there. That is not the issue. It is access.”

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