Health Care Journos Call for End to Saddam-Style "Minders"

March 11, 2009

The fight against press-office gagging of agency scientists and employees did not end with the ascent of Barack Obama to the presidency. In fact, one SEJ member reports that officials at the White House Council on Environmental Quality are continuing the Bush-era practice of refusing to let reporters talk to government scientists and employees without a press-office "minder" present. This is the method of censorship which the Bush administration attacked Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq for practicing.

"The Association of Health Care Journalists has sent a letter to the Obama Administration asking it to end the practice of making reporters go through public affairs offices to arrange interviews with federal experts and, in some cases, having public affairs people monitor those interviews," that group said in a March 4, 2009, release.

Other journalism groups are pondering similar moves. The Obama administration's policies and practices are not yet completely clear and seem to vary from agency to agency.