SPJ DC Chapter says press restrictions exacerbated current problems


The restrictions on talking to the press have been instrumental in getting the nation into its current straits with the COVID-19 pandemic, a Washington journalists group has told three senators.

The D.C. ProChapter of the Society of Professional Journalists asked that examination of controls on the press through media relations be part that the requested inquiry on political interference in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Senator Patty Murray and Senator Gary Peters have asked the Government Accountability Office to examine the possible undue political influence by the Trump Administration on communication and integrity at those agencies.

The D.C. Pro Chapter is part of the Society of Professional Journalists, the largest broad-based organization of journalists in the United States.

SPJ has called these restrictions censorship and authoritarian. The organization recently said these blockages have led to government dysfunction and a significantly higher COVID-19 death toll.

The controls started well before the Trump Administration.

The chapter particularly emphasized that an extensive analysis by First Amendment attorney Frank LoMonte says that the controls are unconstitutional. It also says many courts have said that they are.

It also pointed to documents the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University obtained which show, among other things, CDC indicated to staff it was not particularly important to allow reporters to talk to anyone.

The complete letter with resources on the issue is here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vCvxo3xwNBFL8bZbA3SQgUTwqgk2y0FrWI-iRjIljR4/edit?usp=sharing

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