Press accuse Obama of Soviet-style photo management

By Jon Swaine

Flattering pictures are tweeted by Pete Souza, Barack Obama's official photographer. Photo / AP
Flattering pictures are tweeted by Pete Souza, Barack Obama's official photographer. Photo / AP

Barack Obama's White House has been accused by press photographers of producing Soviet-style propaganda.

The United States President's aides routinely block independent cameramen from photographing him at work, before distributing flattering images shot by Pete Souza, his official photographer.

During a tense meeting at the White House, the practice was described by Doug Mills, a veteran photographer for the New York Times, as "just like Tass", the Soviet Union's state news agency.

More than 30 US media organisations and the leading US press photographers' union have protested against being barred from covering Obama in an open letter to his press secretary, Jay Carney.

"Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties," said the letter. "As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist's camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government."

Aides to Obama stress that US administrations and the press corps have been arguing about access to the commander-in-chief for decades.

However, they have been accused of shutting out journalists more frequently than ever before.

The White House has also taken advantage of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to publish an unprecedented number of officially approved pictures of Obama.

The letter from media groups accused them of "replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases".

Outlets such as USA Today and the McClatchy group of newspapers have announced they will not publish "handout" photographs distributed by the White House.

Editors said the policy would remain in place except for "very extraordinary circumstances", such as when Obama and senior colleagues were photographed in the White House situation room during the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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