Fighting the “PIO chokepoints” that limit media access to government sources

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For decades many federal agencies have been prohibiting reporters from talking to anyone without first requesting access through a public information officer (PIO). And over those years, these “PIO chokepoints” have gotten tighter and tighter, including oversight on conversations and demands for questions ahead of any interview.  Reporters today are often not allowed to speak to anyone, even after acquiescing to censorship and controls.

First Amendment attorney and head of the Brechner Center, Frank LoMonte, wrote in a 2019 article: “Although the practice of gagging public employees from giving unapproved interviews is pervasive across all levels of government, decades’ worth of First Amendment caselaw demonstrates that blanket restrictions on speaking to the media are legally unenforceable.”  

In July, twenty-five journalism organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) ,  called on the Biden administration to end these prohibitions and allow reporters to interview government sources without oversight.

In this 104th episode of “E&P Reports,” publisher Mike Blinder speaks with SPJ immediate past president and opinion editor at the San Diego News and Tribune, Matt Hall along with Chair of the SEJ Freedom of Information Task Force and an editor at the Chesapeake Bay Journal, Tim Wheeler about how their two organizations (along with others) are working towards helping the industry gain more media access to government employees without censorship and controls.

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