On Monday, the State Department held a briefing call for only faith-based media to discuss international press freedom with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In response to inquiries from journalists who were not permitted to join the briefing, the Department declined to provide a transcript of the call, a list of media outlets who were allowed to participate or the criteria used to determine which media outlets were invited.
“The decision to bar reporters from attending a press briefing held only for ‘faith-based’ media on international religious freedom and to withhold the transcript of the discussion raises serious questions about the State Department’s understanding of — and commitment to — a free press,” said Jenn Topper, spokesperson for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
“As a representative of the United States, Secretary Pompeo is subject to public oversight, and with no transcript of this briefing, no list of attendees, and no pool report, the broader press and the public are left entirely in the dark about who participated, what was said, and the implications of this conversation ahead of the Secretary’s trip to the Middle East.
“We urge the State Department to immediately release the transcript of this call, and ensure that future briefings — especially those on issues of widespread public interest — are open to the State Department press corps and other interested journalists.”