Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obama and ACLU Face Off

President Barack Obama intends to try to block the court-ordered release of photos depicting the abuse of prisoners by US military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Given the administration's pledge last month not to fight the court ruling, as well as President Obama's emphasis on promoting transparency and open government when he took office, the decision is very disappointing," stated the international press freedom organization.In a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a federal appeal court panel concluded that it was insufficient to claim the documents would endanger US troops and coalition forces and ordered the Defense Department to release the photographs by May 28th 2009.

In April, the Obama administration told a judge it would not oppose an order to release the photos in response to the ACLU's lawsuit. However, President Obama took back his promise on May 13th and claimed that publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to the public's understanding of the story.

"This is a complete contradiction of President Obama's January 21st memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, in which he stated that 'speculative' or 'abstract fears' were not sufficient reasons to justify excessive confidentiality and classification," added the international press freedom organization. "The government cannot dictate to the public what is news-worthy and what is not. This is a blow to press freedom and to democracy's system of checks and balance. We urge the president to respect the court's decision and stand by his earlier commitment to transparency and accountability."

For further information, contact BenoƮt Hervieu, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France
tel: +33 1 44 83 84 68
fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

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