Obama Promotes Press Freedom Abroad, Has Media Relations Problems at Home

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address to the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative in YangonThe American President is no stranger to dust-ups with the leering media.

This is a man who inspired high-fives  in newsrooms across this great land of ours when he declared that he would have the “most transparent administration in U.S. history.” Regretfully, that promise lasted all of a few weeks.

Journalism groups have scolded him and his response has been a questionable finger pointed in their direction because they “spread cynicism.” Now the president, while traveling in China and Myanmar, says that the  the media should have greater access to do their job in those lands.

obama suu kyiThere he stood, side-by-side with Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi holding a joint news conference. According to CBS News, Mr. Obama “weighed into sensitive controversies over the treatment of religious minorities” and a prohibition preventing Suu Kyi from running in upcoming elections.

“I don’t understand a provision that would bar somebody from running for president because of who their children are. That doesn’t make much sense to me.”

Here’s something else that doesb not make sense to Americans, particularly those who call journalism a gig:

On another matter, Mr. Obama sidestepped questions about the status of a New York Times reporter who U.S. prosecutors want to testify in a leak investigation — even as he is urging Myanmar and China to adopt greater press freedoms.

Mr. Obama said he has been “pretty blunt and pretty frank” with leaders in China and Myanmar that societies that repress journalists ultimately repress their people, as well.

The office off the President should (within reason) be open to the public no matter what parties happen to control the various branches of government at a given moment, because a government that controls or limits the voice of the media does not properly serve its citizens: see Putin, Vladimir.

The president of the United States does not have anything approaching that sort of editorial influence. Still, we encounter story after story in which this administration effectively gives the media a Heisman. Why?

Only members of the administration and the White House Press Corps really know — but don’t be surprised if that same gaggle of media professionals asks him to explain the phenomenon we know as “talking out of both sides of your mouth.”

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)