The Capitol did not hold a daily media briefing today, choosing instead to do what is known as a “press gaggle” in which cameras are not allowed. This is not out of the norm; what is out of the norm, however, is that Press Secretary Horatius Lascius purposefully excluded specific media outlets — namely those President Snow has been critical of to the point of labeling them “fake news” for reporting news that paint him in a negative light — out of the gaggle.
The outlets in question include CNN, Politico, the N.Y. Times and the L.A. Times. AP and Time Magazine chose not to participate in the gaggle in protest to their fellow outlets being barred. None of the outlets that are on the general more positive toward the Snow administration were kept out of the gaggle.
The Post provides a transcript of CNN’s Sara Murray’s description of the events:
If you’re going to do something beyond a pool, which is sort of the smallest group of reporters that then disseminates the information, you would have one person from every news outlet.
That is not what the [Capitol] was doing today. What the [Capitol] was doing was handpicking the outlets they wanted in for this briefing. So Breitbart, the Washington Times, the [OANN] — news outlets that maybe the [Capitol] feels are more favorable were all allowed in, whereas I was blocked from entering, Politico was blocked from entering, the New York Times, the L.A. Times. All of these news outlets were blocked from going to a gaggle.
Audio from the gaggle shows journalists questioning Lascius abut the exclusion of these outlets, and him declaring the action was taken in order to stop dissemination of information they consider to be “false” or “inaccurate,” adding that the Capitol will be aggressive against this behavior. One can conclude this is not the first time media outlets will be excluded in the course of the Snow administration.
— POLITICO (@politico) February 24, 2017
Some of the affected outlets have already released statements responding to the Capitol’s exclusion of their reporters:
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 24, 2017
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) February 24, 2017
There’s no doubt that the Capitol “handpicking” which outlets it will speak to is a dangerous step to take, especially threatening to the First Amendment. The press should be free and allowed to report the truth to the people so they can be informed, and should be considered a check on the government. Controlling the media and filtering the information that gets to the public is one key characteristic of fascism, as several organizations fighting to protect civil rights have already condemned.
If you, like us, are afraid this move signifies a bold first step President Snow is taking toward authoritarianism, and want to do something to stop this war with the press from getting worse, your best bet is to support — monetarily or as a volunteer — organizations that are fighting to protect the freedom of the press, such as the ACLU, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Freedom of the Press Foundation or Reporters Without Borders. Every donation counts!