News outlets are reporting the Trump administration is preventing federal agencies from using social media or talking with the press.
Media stories have popped up warning of “gag orders” at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and Department of Commerce. It sounds alarming, but this sort of thing is far from unprecedented.
Federal officials were ordered not to talk with the media due during the Obama administration “increased scrutiny surrounding” the implementation of the stimulus package.
The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) released an email from a top U.S. Forest Service public affairs staffer stating “due to the increased scrutiny surrounding ARRA [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] work and partly due to a relatively new administration, we remain under strict instructions for talking with the media.”
The gag order came after Congress passed the stimulus package, or ARRA, in 2009 with the hopes of boosting the economy. But right off the bat, reporters began questioning how the $840 billion stimulus package was being spent.
“If you receive media calls that fall under the following categories you cannot talk to the reporter, but should instead get their contact info and get in touch with me:,” Kate Goodrich-Arling, the public affairs officer at the Monongahela National Forest, wrote in a January 2020 email to staff.
PEER said the administration’s “message control” mentality stood in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s promise to run the “most transparent” administration in history. In fact, Obama signed a 2009 executive order asserting his ability to “ “supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress.”
PEER mentioned another instance where the Obama administration had federal officials under a “gag order.”
“Recent action by EPA to censor what its own employees could say in a private YouTube video about weaknesses in cap-and-trade systems for controlling greenhouse gas emissions,” PEER wrote.
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