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White House warns African reporter repeated interruptions may cost him press pass

"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," the White House Press Office warned.

Published: July 12, 2023 8:34pm

The White House has put a reporter on notice that he may lose his press pass should he continue his interruptions during press briefings.

Today News Africa White House Correspondent Simon Ateba earned the ire of the the White House press office through behavior it says impeded the ability of other press members to ask questions of the staff. Ateba posted the warning letter he received to Twitter this week.

"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," the White House Press Office warned.

"We strongly support the important role that members of the press play in covering the White House," the letter reads. "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," it continued. "That back-and-forth only works, however, when the individuals who are part of it 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 proceeded to outline a specific June 26 press briefing in which Ateba repeatedly interrupted another reporter, attempting to ask a question despite White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calling on someone else. 

The office contended that Ateba's conduct was not an "isolated episode" and outlined numerous examples of him behaving in a disruptive manner.

"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 continued. "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."

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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