January 26, 2017

US - RSF concerned by media blackout at EPA, other federal agencies

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned to learn that Trump's administration has ordered a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several other federal agencies of the United States government. This media blackout has serious consequences for the American public's right to access information about government activity and compromises transparency.

Several news outlets have reported that Trump's administration Tuesday instituted a media blackout at the EPA as well as other federal agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior.

According to internal emails obtained by the Associated Press, EPA employees are prohibited from sending out press releases, blog updates or posting to the agency's official social media accounts. Instead, staff members were ordered to forward all media inquiries to the Office of Administration and Resources Management so that "incoming media requests will be carefully screened," according to one such email.

At yesterday's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if the White House had a hand in deleting tweets on climate change facts Tuesday from the official twitter account of the National Parks Service or if the White House had a broader mandate stopping communications from federal agencies. Spicer replied "there’s nothing coming from the White House, absolutely not."

"Ordering a media blackout on federal agencies is a direct threat to governmental transparency, says Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF's North America office. "The American public has a right to access information about what their federal agencies are doing and this media blackout order is keeping them in the dark."

The Department of Agriculture has since rescinded its order to keep staffers and scientists from sharing their work with the public.

The US ranks 41 out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.