WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2017 – The Trump administration’s ongoing war on freedom of information has opened on a new front: barring employees of the nation’s health protection agency from answering even “the most basic of data requests” from journalists without clearance.
An internal email from the public affairs office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obtained by Axios, says CDC staff can’t talk to or correspond with reporters without permission.
The full email sent to CDC staff on Aug. 31 from public affairs officer Jeffrey Lancashire reads:
Effective immediately and until further notice, any and all correspondence with any member of the news media, regardless of the nature of the inquiry, must be cleared through CDC’s Atlanta Communications Office. This correspondence includes everything from formal interview requests to the most basic of data requests.
The data collected, analyzed and housed at the CDC can provide invaluable information to the news media and citizens on issues critical to public health, such as cancer, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and chemical emergencies. The agency also tracks pandemic outbreaks and potential bioterrorism threats.
“The White House has already tightened or closed off reporters’ access to information from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and other agencies. But silencing scientists at the CDC from informing the public about critical, even life-threatening, public health issues takes the war on transparency to a new level,” said EWG President Ken Cook.
“You’d expect this heavy-handed crackdown on freedom of information from one of the authoritarian regimes the president so admires,” said Cook. “But this is not in line with democratic principles and values. To tell CDC scientists they can’t talk to reporters without going through public relations flacks is not only an insult to those dedicated public servants, but another sign of this administration’s contempt for American citizens.”
EWG a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. www.ewg.org