Obama and McCain in blow against press freedom with convention charges

Both US presidential candidates have been accused of striking a blow against the first amendment rights of journalists by charging them to file copy from the US conventions.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain are charging hefty fees to journalists wishing to report from their election night events. It is a move which is believed to be unprecedented and which means many freelances and those from less well-funded news organisations will unable to cover the candidates’ election night parties.

Obama is hosting his election-night event at Chicago’s Grant Park on 4 November. Despite amassing a record campaign war chest of nearly $1 billion Senator Obama is levying a charge of £598 on reporters who want to report from the event.

Obama’s press office sent out a price list this week revealing a filing-seat in the press tent would set individuals back $935.

McCain on the other hand has levied a charge of £445 ($695) on those planning to cover his election night event in Arizona.

Hundreds of journalists are expected to attend the election night events but the inflated fees have put many off

It is a move which has further alienated the army of foreign reporters currently in the US covering an election which has captivated the world.

There have already been widespread grumbles about both McCain and Obamas’ refusals to give non-US journalists interviews.

COMMENT:

While I understand that there may be costs associated with telephone and internet access, I find it really unusual that they would levy such an inflated charge on reporters, writes Siobhan McFadyen.

I have covered numerous election nights in the UK but have not been forced to pay such a ridiculous amount of money for the privilege of doing my job. It’s a bit rich given the amounts both campaigns have drawn down from their donors in recent months.

In September Senator Obama raised a record breaking $150 million and McCain is no better claiming more than $84.1 million in a public grant.

The least they could do is offer a concession, especially to freelance writers who don’t have the deep pockets that the larger media outlets have.

Hundreds of journalists are expected to attend the November 4th election night from Chicago and Arizona but the inflated fees have put many off.

Obama and McCain have repeatedly refused to allow any international journalists interviews during their campaigns and while it’s understandable that they want to focus on the US media, I think it would have served them well.

The foreign press have been left out of the picture in these elections, both candidates have been less than friendly which is concerning giving the worldwide economic crisis.

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