What likes and dislikes Barack Obama

Secrecy : The control freak

The law was signed, now the reporters had questions. But the president fought back in the usual manner: “This is,” Barack Obama told those present, “but no press conference”. He may not have been aware of the irony of that statement. Because the short appearance in May of this year served to pass the "Freedom of the Press" act. A law that obliges the US State Department to identify those countries around the world that hinder media work.

If it were up to the increasing number of critics in the USA, the Obama administration would have long since belonged to the "top ten" of this list of sinners. Although the president promised "unprecedented openness and transparency" in his decisions during his election campaign, he has now erected a barely surmountable wall between the White House and the media. The politically unsuspicious Association for Journalist Training and Communication (AEJMC) therefore recently shot a spectacular broadside against Obama: His isolationist course and the lack of press conferences stand in sharp contrast to earlier promises. One is "alarmed" in view of the numerous restrictions.

The last ten months journalists in Washington had to wait for a press conference. It was not until the oil spill that Obama, who, as consultants have learned, does not abhor pre-formulated appearances down to the last detail and even uses the teleprompter reading aid when greeting students, forced him to appear before the White House press corps. But now the rapporteurs feel ingratitude and anger at the virtually non-existent access. The renowned Washington Post found the harshest words so far. Commentator Dana Milbank noted that there was so much secrecy at the Washington nuclear summit convened by Obama in April that "the dictators of the world could learn how to bypass a free press successfully."

The paper lamented conditions “like in Moscow during the Soviet Union”. At the meetings of the invited heads of state, journalists often did not even have enough time to identify the color of the ties. The US media also pissed off a whole bunch of piquant restrictions in which journalists had to call courts to force information through the "Freedom of Information Act": What are the rules for questioning terror suspects? Are lobbyists and government officials still meeting in the White House? In addition, there are controversial presidential orders such as the order to the Pentagon not to publish new torture photos of prisoners in Iraq under any circumstances. Neither do they want to reveal the locations of the CIA secret prisons.

The latest instruction to the Department of Defense following the whirlwind of the fired General Stanley McChrystal, according to which the military and civil servants of the armed forces must in future have all media contact approved by the Pentagon, fits in with the president's anti-media stance, as do new rules for reporting on the oil spill. According to the US Coast Guard, it is now decided by a staff unit in the White House who is allowed to go to the center of the disaster by ship or plane. Recently, a rule has also been in force that also serves to seal off: Journalists who come closer than 20 meters to places where the consequences of the oil spill are being fought without prior authorization can expect up to five years in prison. An order that the enraged CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper commented from New Orleans: "That makes it very easy to cover up incompetence and failure." And Obama is now keeping a low profile even on the smallest, actually harmless details. Employees were not allowed to tell the waiting crowd of journalists how the president's golf round ended at the weekend.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page