In a recent update to its standards for journalist credentials, the White House Press Office has faced criticism and controversy, as over 400 reporters have lost their hard passes, according to reports. The new guidelines, announced in May, require journalists to meet stringent criteria for yearly renewal of their “hard passes,” which grant them access to the White House complex.
Under the updated standards, reporters must demonstrate full-time employment with a news dissemination organization, possess a physical address in the Washington, D.C. area, and show proof of having accessed the White House campus for work in the prior six months or provide employment documentation covering the White House within the last three months. Additionally, they must have an assignment to cover or provide technical support in covering the White House regularly and be accredited by a press gallery in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, or Supreme Court. Applicants must also be willing to undergo investigations by the U.S. Secret Service to determine eligibility.
The White House revealed that only one journalist had their application for a new hard pass denied, indicating that the majority of those who lost their credentials did not reapply, possibly due to not meeting the new qualifications. For those affected, the White House granted a grace period until August 10 to allow them to keep their current passes while they submitted the necessary materials for consideration.
The reduction in the number of credentialed White House correspondents from 1,417 to 975 after the previous passes expired on July 31 raised concerns among the journalistic community. While the White House argued that the change aimed to ensure robust media access to the campus, critics voiced worries that the new rules could hinder press freedom and limit diverse perspectives from reaching the White House.
One such critic was Simon Ateba, a reporter known for confronting White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during briefings. Ateba accused the White House Press Office of targeting him with the new requirements, although he claimed to meet all the specified criteria. The White House, however, maintained that the changes were initiated because around 40 percent of hard pass holders had not accessed the White House complex in the prior 90 days, suggesting the need for a more streamlined and efficient process.
“🚨BREAKING🚨 Biden Administration Silences Over 400 Reporters!😱 Discover how the White House quietly purged access to press briefings by 31% in the past 3 months. 😮 Shocking numbers revealed by Politico’s West Wing Playbook.📰 Read more: https://t.co/HTRWciLbrB“
— Patriot911 (@Patriot911News) August 5, 2023
The updated guidelines also warn that hard passes may be revoked if a journalist fails to act in a professional manner, with a system of written warnings, suspensions, and potential bans for repeat offenders. Critics worry that this provision might be used as a means of silencing critical or confrontational reporters, further fueling concerns about press freedom in the White House.