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Criticized for limiting access to president, White House shows off oval office photographers

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Pete Souza / White House, Obama Oval Office
Pete Souza / White House, Obama Oval Office

The Obama administration has been widely praised for its embrace of social media, but journalists say that the move has led to a type of government-controlled media. The White House Correspondent's Association and nearly forty news organizations from around the world penned a letter this week to the White House press secretary complaining about the administration's tight control over media access — particularly in regards to photojournalism. In the jointly-signed letter, the White House's limitations on when and where photographers can record the president's activities are called "an arbitrary restraint and unwarranted interference on legitimate newsgathering activities," adding that the administration is effectively "replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases."

The media agencies specifically state that their complaint does not concern sensitive meetings, but rather public-facing events that the press secretary deems "private" in nature. What's concerning to the press is that the White House later publicly releases photographs of such events by official photographer Pete Souza. For its part, the White House responded that social media allowed for more exposure of the president than ever before. According to The New York Times, a spokesman said that the office has "taken advantage of new technology to give the American public even greater access to behind-the-scenes footage or photographs of the president doing his job."

Some say that isn't the White House's only response to the complaint. Yesterday's official "White House Photo of the Day" featured a shot by Pete Souza showing an array of press photographers in the oval office capturing the moment President Obama signed a recent bill into law. A few critics are incensed by the photo, calling it insensitive to the media's valid complaints. Whether or not it's a subtle jab at the media, there remains little sign that the press secretary will change policies restricting access.