Associated Press photojournalist Santiago Lyon on Wednesday called President Obama’s policies restricting photojournalist access in the White House “Orwellian” in a New York Times op-ed.
Lyon juxtaposed the selfie Obama took at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service with how the administration has controlled the images coming out of the Whte House.
“Manifestly undemocratic, in contrast, is the way Mr. Obama’s administration — in hypocritical defiance of the principles of openness and transparency he campaigned on — has systematically tried to bypass the media by releasing a sanitized visual record of his activities through official photographs and videos, at the expense of independent journalistic access,” Lyon wrote.
Lyon said that the press corps has only been allowed to photograph the President in his office a couple of times, which is unprecedented.
“[T]he press has been allowed to photograph him alone in the Oval Office only twice: in 2009 and in 2010, both times when he was speaking on the phone,” Lyon wrote. “Pictures of him at work with his staff in the Oval Office — activities to which previous administrations routinely granted access — have never been allowed.”
The White House has defended is policies, stating that they have released more pictures of Obama than any other administration. Lyon said these are merely “visual press releases” or “propaganda.”
“Taken by government employees (mostly former photojournalists), they are well composed, compelling and even intimate glimpses of presidential life,” he wrote. “They also show the president in the best possible light, as you’d expect from an administration highly conscious of the power of the image at a time of instant sharing of photos and videos.”
In November, the White House Correspondents’ Association and other news groups submitted a letter to the administration protesting the photography policy, which the administration defended.
“We’ve 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,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.