A 2021 decision by the White House Press Office to relax requirements for reporters seeking “hard passes” for daily briefings has come under scrutiny. Simon Ateba, an independent reporter, alleges that despite the changes, he was repeatedly sidelined during press briefings.
The initial shift in policy was part of an effort to promote more access for smaller media entities. However, Ateba asserts that his questions were consistently ignored while he regularly attended these briefings.
The White House Press Office cited security and decorum reasons for revoking all existing hard passes in May. They subsequently introduced new criteria that mandate reporters have credentials either from the Supreme Court or one of the four Congressional Press Galleries.
However, there are concerns about these requirements. The Supreme Court credentials are typically granted only to those who cover it full-time. Meanwhile, the Congressional Press Galleries are known to comprise established DC journalists, and their criteria for credentials, based on “reputability,” are seen as vague and exclusive.
Ateba is now taking legal action against the White House, with the case Ateba v. Jean-Pierre. He claims the credentialing changes violate the First Amendment’s press freedom guarantee.
As the case unfolds, it raises essential questions about the balance between security, decorum, and the rights of journalists in a democratic society.