The Association of Health Care Journalists has joined the Society of Professional Journalists and 25 other journalism and open government groups in urging every member of Congress to support unimpeded communication with journalists for all federal employees.
“It is essential to public welfare and democracy that this issue is addressed. Not allowing experts to speak freely to reporters is authoritarian and keeps sources from explaining a variety of things that are the public’s business,” the groups say in a letter sent to Congress members today.
“This ‘Censorship by PIO’ works in tandem with other assaults on free speech including restrictions on public records, threats and physical assaults on reporters, prosecution of whistleblowers and threats of prosecution against reporters.”
Many groups in the coalition of organizations have been working for several years to spark changes in the restrictions put on federal employees and the lack of freedom to speak to journalists. For more than a decade, AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee has pressed federal officials to improve journalists’ access to federal experts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided AHCJ with the email addresses and phone numbers of three key media officers, a move that a top official said she hoped would foster “a better working relationship” with reporters.
Michelle E. Bonds, director of the Division of Public Affairs at the CDC, provided the contact information after AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee described members’ difficulties getting answers from the CDC. Continue reading →
By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, LinkReporter David Abel was denied access to talk to the Massachusetts state ornithologist about barn swallows.
David Abel had had enough.
The Boston Globe’s environmental writer was used to being denied interviews with state scientists and officials. But this latest refusal from the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was just too absurd.
Abel had been forbidden to speak with the state ornithologist. (Yes, this is Massachusetts, we have such an official.) His topic was not politically sensitive. Continue reading →
Reporters were taken aback on Monday when they received an invitation to a national phone call billed as an “Open Door Forum” – with instructions that remarks made on this public call would not be on the record.
After AHCJ inquired, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated that the call would, in fact, be on the record and that the off-the-record requirement was included by mistake. Continue reading →
The Department of Health and Human Services is sponsoring a seminar for reporters on covering suicide on Tuesday, in what the lead organizer described as an effort by HHS media officials to engage with journalists in new ways.
Mark Weber, the deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, said that media officials often interact with reporters in what he called “ATM transactions” – communicating only when one needs something from the other. Continue reading →
AHCJ has strengthened its ethical standards on funding for the annual conference, enhancing the ethics code established at our inception 20 years ago to guard against undue influence by outside groups or the perception of such influence.