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AP photog blasts 'hypocritical' Obama on transparency

President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives at the Saban Forum to speak about the Middle East at the Willard Hotel in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. The 2013 Forum is examining the political changes taking place across the Middle East, and the President spoke about topics including Iran. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography for the Associated Press, has an op-ed in the New York Times hammering the Obama administration for barring photo journalists from many presidential events, which are instead captured and made public by the White House photographer:

Manifestly undemocratic ... 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. ...

The official photographs the White House hands out are but visual news releases. Taken by government employees (mostly former photojournalists), they are well composed, compelling and even intimate glimpses of presidential life. 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.

By no stretch of the imagination are these images journalism. Rather, they propagate an idealized portrayal of events on Pennsylvania Avenue.

In November, the White House Correspondents’ Association sent a letter to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney calling for an end to banning news media photographers from supposedly private events that are still photographed by Pete Souza, the White House photographer.

The Obama administration, for its part, has defended its practice of releasing in-house photographs.

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