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White House Threatens To Suspend Reporter's Hard Pass

Simon Ateba Has Gained Prominence With Fellow Correspondents For Sparring With Press Secretaries Alleging He Is Not Allowed To Ask Questions

The White House has formally threatened to suspend a reporter’s hard pass.

A hard pass grants journalists regular entry to the White House and typically takes several months to authorize.

Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba was formally sent a “warning” letter following a Washington Post hit piece published Saturday. The article by Paul Farhi claimed the reporter was alienating colleagues, agitating press secretaries, and “delighted conservative media by interrupting to claim he has been overlooked.”

Ateba shared the letter in a Twitter post.

“We strongly support the important role that members of the press play in covering the White House,” reads the White House’s letter. “As part of that role, reporters ask tough questions of White House officials to better understand the Administration’s position on important policy matters.”

“These questions, and the resulting exchanges, are expected elements of the back-and-forth that regularly occurs in reporting the news to the American people.”

The letter continued stating a “back-and-forth” between the press secretary and White House correspondents only works when parties “engage with each other in a professional and respectful manner.”

When members of the press impede briefings or other events by shouting over colleagues who have been called on for a question, or yelling over a White House official who is trying to respond to a question or present a briefing, all members of the press are harmed in their ability to report the news,” the letter continues referencing Ateba’s speaking out of turn.

In contravention of these expectations, you impeded a June 26, 2023, press briefing and interrupted the Press Secretary. When the Press Secretary called on another member of the press, you continued to interrupt, preventing your colleague from asking his question. You did not stop interrupting when your colleagues asked you to stop, or when the Press Secretary informed you that you were being rude to her and to your colleagues.

Although this written warning is specific to the June 26 press briefing, it was not an isolated episode,” the letter reads detailing several other instances of Ateba speaking out of turn dating back to May 2022.

The White House recognizes that members of the press often raise their voices or shout questions at press briefings or events. Ordinarily such shouting stops when a reporter is called on for a question, and the briefing or event is able to continue,” the letter continues. “Continued interruptions are different; they prevent journalists from asking questions or administration officials and guests from responding. The Press Secretary’s only option in response to such disruptions is to stop the briefing or event, which is to the detriment of all journalists.

If you continue to impede briefings or events by shouting over your colleagues who have been called on for a question, even after you have been asked to stop by a White House employee, then your hard pass may be suspended or revoked, following notice and an opportunity to respond.

“We hope that you will work with us to avoid any future issues in the press briefing room or at other events on White House grounds.”

“America is the greatest country in the world and no country comes even close. Here in the United States, press freedom is respected, or so I thought, or so I was made to believe,” Ateba told the Daily Caller following the WHCA’s threat to suspend or expel him in May. “I have sacrificed everything for journalism.”

He continued:

I have done no other job across various continents. I have been arrested, detained, accused of being a spy for Boko Haram while doing an investigative report on Nigerian refugees in Chad and Cameroon. I have been attacked by pirates on the Gulf of Guinea, kidnapped from a car in Lagos, dumped in the woods and left for dead. Am I not worth asking a question at least once a month? Am I not being in the room when President Biden receives President Kenyatta of Kenya? Am I less? Is that what press freedom is?

Ateba has reportedly threatened to sue Jean-Pierre over alleged discrimination during press briefings.

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