Journalist, tired of being ignored, sues White House for unconstitutional treatment

Journalist, tired of being ignored, sues White House for unconstitutional treatment

Journalist, tired of being ignored, sues White House for unconstitutional treatment

Simon Ateba is taking on the White House – and it's not just another clash over a question Karine Jean-Pierre would prefer not to answer.

This time the African-born journalist (pictured above) is suing Jean-Pierre and the U.S. Secret Service for what he says is unconstitutionally rescinding his press credentials following a series of newsroom disputes.

Ateba, who covers the White House for Today News Africa – a website that the New York Times says he owns and serves as its only employee – has conservative leanings and has gained a reputation for asking questions that might make the administration uncomfortable.

He contends his First Amendment right of freedom of the press is being violated.

"This is not about me. It's about the freedom of the press and the ability to do the job," Ateba, 43, said on American Family Radio Monday. "The public has a right to know, and the journalist has a duty to tell.

"When I go to the White House press briefing room, it's just to do my job: ask the tough questions, ask the right questions – the questions that the American people really care about. And when you do that, they discriminate against you. They try to sideline you; and in the end, they try to kick you out,"

The White House in May announced it would change the requirements for reporters to be granted a "hard pass," which allows holders to access the White House for an extended period of time before expiration and a repeated renewal process.

Journalists without a hard pass can still apply for a "day pass," the White House said.

Upon receipt of the email explaining the changing process Ateba, who began covering daily press briefings in 2017, took to social media and said, "BREAKING: The @WhiteHouse is changing the rules for press hard passes to target me. It's crazy what's going on. How can a guy come from Africa and you have to change the rules because of him?"

White House: 'Hey Simon, cut it out'

On July 11, Today News Africa posted a story explaining that Ateba had received a "warning letter" saying there was a chance he would be "silenced" if he continued to interrupt press briefings.

Ateba has been shouting, calling out from the back of the briefing room trying to get the attention of the White House press secretary, first Jen Psaki then Jean-Pierre (right). He has shouted from an organized indoor setting in the way reporters shout when the president is walking away from an outdoor gaggle or about to board Air Force One.

It is protocol for the White House, or any institution that conducts a press conference, to reserve seats for news outlets of reach and influence. At the White House, the coveted seats are traditionally saved for reporters from networks like CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox along with wire services Reuters and The Associated Press, Yahoo has reported.

It's not uncommon for the host organization to allow more questions from these media outlets, but most press conference hosts seek a balance in entertaining questions from other media.

Today News Africa reported in July that Ateba had not been recognized for a question in the last nine months and that he has begun to shout out questions "as a last resort" in an effort to be recognized.

When CNN's Jim Acosta had his credential pulled after asking questions unpopular with former President Donald Trump, the network called it a "stunning break from protocol" and issued a statement saying Acosta had the full support of CNN.

CNN has not covered the Ateba story.

In 2018 the New York Times wrote an editorial saying, "Let Jim Acosta Do His Job."

The Times headline on the Ateba story three weeks ago asked, "Why Won't Simon Ateba Stop Shouting?"

Other conservative media struggle to be recognized

Ateba told AFR show host Jenna Ellis that reporters who actually want to ask the right questions rarely get called upon.

"For instance, my friend, Steven Nelson from the New York Post, who is doing an incredible job, usually doesn't get called on because he's going to ask about Hunter Biden, cocaine in the White House, and other key questions that the American people really care about," the journalist shared.

"My friend, Deanna Glebova of Daily Caller, doesn't get called on. Jeff Murdoch of the Washington Times doesn't get called on, and other people, including James Rosen from Newsmax. If you realize, all those names I just listed – they are people on the right; they represent conservative news outlets," Ateba pointed out.

Ateba meets most of the new requirements to gain access to daily White House press briefings. He feels targeted by the requirement that those seeking a hard pass must also have accreditation to cover either the Senate, the House or the Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court has only 25 journalists who cover them full time; and for them to give you a hard pass, you need to be there every single day, every single time – and you can't cover the Supreme Court and cover the White House at the same time," Ateba said.

The requirement to the Senate or House is also unreasonable, Ateba argued.

"It takes a very long time for Congress to credential new applicants," he noted. "They didn't do their homework when they asked people covering the executive branch of government to get credentialed by other branches of government – Congress and the Supreme Court – which is unconstitutional."

Ateba is represented in his lawsuit by the Center for American Liberty, which describes in its complaint that the defendants' "intentional discrimination" violates the journalist's First Amendment rights – "the same rights shared by all other members of a free press." The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.