Renowned journalist Simon Ateba, who is based in the United States and originally from Africa, has expressed concerns that the White House is changing the rules for press hard passes to target him. In a tweet, Ateba claimed that he qualifies for all the requirements listed by the White House and that it’s “crazy” to change the rules because of him.
Ateba stated that he filed his taxes, is registered with the District of Columbia, has a physical address in the greater Washington, D.C. area, and has only worked as a journalist, with two journalism degrees. He also attends briefings religiously and has no second job. However, the White House is revising its policy on press hard passes, which means that all current press hard passes will expire on July 31, and all pass holders will need to meet new criteria to renew their passes.
According to the White House’s new policy, journalists will need to meet certain requirements to renew their press hard passes, including full-time employment with an organization whose principal business is news dissemination, physical address in the greater Washington, D.C. area, having accessed the White House campus at least once during the prior six months for work, and accreditation by a press gallery in either the Supreme Court, U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. They will also need to submit to any necessary investigation by the U.S. Secret Service to determine eligibility for access to the White House complex.
Ateba’s concerns have raised questions about press freedom and the role of journalists in the United States. The White House has yet to respond to Ateba’s claims, but many have expressed support for him and urged the White House to reconsider its policy.
The White House wrote,
We are writing to inform you that the White House intends to revise the policy on press hard passes to be consistent with that of prior administrations. Under the policy, all current press hard passes will expire on July 31. You will be able to request renewal of your current hard pass as described below, and any renewed passes will remain valid for one year, subject to annual renewal.
To renew your pass, your bureau chief/supervisor will need to email a letter. Your news organization will not need to submit multiple letters if requesting hard passes for more than one employee as long as your letter covers all employees requesting hard pass access to the White House campus.
This letter will need to be written on the official letterhead of your news organization, including contact information for someone who can verify the details provided below, and indicate that each applicant meets the following requirements:
- Full-time employment with an organization whose principal business is news dissemination (If you are freelance, we will need letters from two news organizations describing your affiliation, or, if you freelance primarily for one organization, a letter from that organization describing the extent and duration of your relationship with the organization);
- Physical address (either residential or professional) in the greater Washington, D.C. area;
- Have accessed the White House campus at least once during the prior six months for work, or have proof of employment within the last three months to cover the White House;
- Assignment to cover (or provide technical support in covering) the White House on a regular basis;
- Accreditation by a press gallery in either the Supreme Court, U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives; and
- Willingness to submit to any necessary investigation by the U.S. Secret Service to determine eligibility for access to the White House complex, where Secret Service will determine eligibility based on whether the applicant presents a potential risk to the safety or security of the President, the Vice President, or the White House complex.
This letter should be attached, along with a photograph or scan of a Supreme Court, Senate, or House of Representatives credential, and the completed hard pass application and submitted at one time.
After receiving the letter from your supervisor and updating your background check, the U.S. Secret Service will grant a hard pass upon confirmation from the Press Office that you meet the above criteria. You will not need to receive a new physical pass if you already have one.
If you currently do not have a hard pass, you will need to complete the standard application and also provide the letter stated above. The Press Office will then be in touch to schedule a time to pick up your hard pass if approved.
The White House expects that all hard pass holders will act in a professional manner while on White House grounds by respecting their colleagues, White House employees, and guests; observing stated restrictions on access to areas of the White House or credentialed events; and not impeding events or briefings on campus. Absent security concerns involving the United States Secret Service or other exigent circumstances, the White House will provide a written warning to you if your conduct violates these expectations. Subsequent violations may lead to the suspension or revocation of your hard pass, following notice and an opportunity to respond.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
The White House Press Office