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Press groups call on Obama administration to end 'pervasive’ secrecy practices

Dozens of leading U.S. press organizations are urging the Obama administration to live up to its transparency promises and reverse a trend of increased secrecy at federal agencies.

Thirty-eight national press organizations and transparency groups—including the Society for Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the Poynter Institute—called on the Obama administration to end “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies,” in a letter to the White House released Tuesday.

“Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees,” the letter reads. “This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship—an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear.”

Specifically, the letter points to numerous instances of federal public affairs officers blocking reporters’ requests to talk to agency staff, delaying responses to interview requests, and blackballing reporters who write critically of agencies.

According to the letter, “a recent survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.”

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