On Monday, I got an email inviting me to join an “on-the-record conference call” with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The message, sent to my Christian Chronicle address, indicated that Pompeo would discuss international religious freedom ahead of his trip to Jerusalem and the Middle East and take questions from call participants.
Ordinarily, I might have RSVP’d and listened to what Pompeo had to say.
But I’m still recovering (read: exhausted and taking a few days off) after my own recent travel to Israel. So I decided I’d rely on other journalists’ news coverage of the call and perhaps check out the transcript later.
Little did I know that the exclusivity of the invitation itself would make headlines.
On Monday, the State Department held a briefing call for only faith-based media to discuss international press freedom with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In response to inquiries from journalists who were not permitted to join the briefing, the Department declined to provide a transcript of the call, a list of media outlets who were allowed to participate or the criteria used to determine which media outlets were invited.
“The decision to bar reporters from attending a press briefing held only for ‘faith-based’ media on international religious freedom and to withhold the transcript of the discussion raises serious questions about the State Department’s understanding of — and commitment to — a free press,” said Jenn Topper, spokesperson for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.