The Senate has sparked outrage among photojournalists after revealing a new set of restrictions on journalists, including barring any photographer from documenting the historic moment today when the articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump are delivered to the Senate.
According to a report by Roll Call, the new rules handed down by the Senate sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police are meant to protect senators; however, credentialed Capitol Hill press are accusing the Senate of restricting press access without sufficient justification for the new rules.
The rules come after a months-long “standoff” between the authorities on Capitol Hill and The Standing Committee of Correspondents, which represents journalists credentialed to cover the House and Senate. According to a letter published by the Standing Committee of Correspondents, the sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police rejected all of their suggestions without any explanation of how the new restrictions contribute to safety “rather than simply limit coverage of the trial.”
Restrictions include limiting press to a single press pen on the second floor of the Senate during the trial and implementing a second set of security screenings, but the most hotly contested are the limits on the moment when the articles of impeachment are transferred to the Senate later today, an historic moment that will now be covered by a single video camera… and nothing further. No stills photographers will be allowed at all.
NO STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS allowed to document the transfer of the articles to the Senate?!?!?
I stand with the Standing Committee of Correspondents & scores of colleagues who cover the Capitol daily in condemning this outrageous breach of press freedom. https://t.co/lF4B0fJKUg
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) January 14, 2020
Reaction to the announcement in the public has been swift and predictable. Photojournalists and democrats largely see this as an attack on press freedom and an attempt to minimize this moment in history by ensuring there is no physical record:
If you’re trying to erase a moment from history, job one is to ensure no still cameras are there to record it. https://t.co/FB8qWscx8i
— David Hobby (@strobist) January 15, 2020
This is not right: "When the articles of impeachment are delivered to the Senate, a procession full of pomp and circumstance, just one video camera and no still photographers will be allowed. … No audio recording at all will be permitted, leaving radio reporters empty handed." https://t.co/xJ0H8zY3Df
— Stacey Shick Samuels (@StaceyShick) January 14, 2020
Supporters of the president, meanwhile, rejoiced at the new ruling by claiming that “fake news media are getting what they deserve”:
We ve seen the press twist the story many times! Hell yes, dont let them in!!
— whirlywind (@whirlywind1) January 15, 2020
The press should also be held accountable @AOC, by that I mean not print fake news to suit their agenda.
— Sean Antrim (@sean_antrim) January 15, 2020
Whatever your political stance, it’s undeniable that the new restrictions are unprecedented. No such restrictions were in place when the Clinton articles of impeachment were delivered to the Senate in 1998, and the additional limits and security screenings now in place will no doubt make it more difficult to thoroughly cover the trial.
Image credits: Header photo by FEMA, in the public domain.