REPORT: Pentagon “Restricting Press Access,” Punishing Reporters

Tensions are rising.

The Pentagon has been punishing reporters and restricting access to top Defense Department officials, Politico reported on Thursday. Journalists are becoming increasingly frustrated with the administration’s lack of transparency and retaliatory behavior toward stories they don’t like.

Jason Schwartz detailed a “combative” interaction between members of the media and Pentagon spokesperson Dana White in which White said the Pentagon was “watching what they wrote and put on-air — with the implication that there would be repercussions for stories she and her staff did not like.”

Schwartz said it has become increasingly difficult to access Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, noting that “several reporters said that they increasingly feel as though individual journalists are being retaliated against for stories they’ve written, losing yet more access.”

One such example cited by Schwartz involved Defense One, a military news outlet that published a piece critical of President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force. Defense One was “left out of a media roundtable with the deputy secretary of defense earlier this month to help roll out President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force,” Schwartz said.

“It seems Defense One was deliberately left out of a briefing in retaliation for our reporting,” Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron said. Baron added that he received an apology from White and that his publication “would be included to all future, relevant briefings.”

Baron also said the “climate” reeks of “retaliation.”

“Because of the preexisting climate, people start to wonder if it’s retaliation more than I think you would normally,” he said. “I worry, because I’ve heard that it may be happening to other reporters, and I worry what kind of signal it sends to the rest of military bases around the world.”

Baron added:

It’s definitely a change of past practice from previous administrations and defense secretaries. It’s not something that we’re used to at the Pentagon. Things are just different at the Pentagon. These are veteran reporters who cover life and death and war and peace.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said the Defense Department was committed to “the accessibility of timely and accurate information to the media, the Congress, and the American people.”

We are guided by the principles of information and committed to ensuring the accessibility of timely and accurate information to the media, the Congress and the American people. And we prioritize diversity of reporting during engagements and travel with Secretary Mattis and all of our senior leaders in the Department of Defense.

Summers later told Politico “there is no retaliation” against the media and that journalists who feel shut out of foreign trips should understand that the Pentagon is trying to use “regional media and bring non-traditional media.”

“The notion that someone doesn’t have access or someone is shut out, that’s absolutely not accurate,” Summers added.

But Schwartz wrote that a number of Pentagon reporters feel growing frustration with their ability to deliver information to the American people about the Defense Department.

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