AP, Reuters To Skip SC Republican Debate To Protest Restrictions

May 5, 2011

Associated Press and Reuters photographers are pretty much everywhere news occurs, be it war zones, Super Bowls and the myriad of lesser events that are soon forgotten.

But they apparently won't be at Thursday night's Greenville, SC debate between some of those Republicans mulling a run for their party's presidential nomination.

Actually, the news services would like to have their photographers there. But they are refusing to send them due to unusual restrictions being placed on them by the co-sponsors of the debate — the South Carolina Republican Party and Fox News Channel, which will carry the debate.

The debate organizers will only let a single news photographer take photos before the beginning of the debate. Once it's News photographers won't be allowed to do what they usually do at these debates, take photos throughout.

Given that the debate is already missing the presumed frontrunner, Mitt Romney as well as other big names like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, you might think the debate organizers would want all the attention they could attract. Apparently not.

Attending will be Rep. Ron Paul, former governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Gary Johnson of New Mexico, and Herman Cain, an Atlanta businessman and radio personality.

The AP issued the following statement:

This is to inform you that The Associated Press is not planning to cover Thursday night's Republican presidential candidate debate in South Carolina because of restrictions placed on media access. The debate sponsors, Fox News Channel and the South Carolina Republican Party, will only allow photos to be taken in the moments ahead of the debate and not during the event itself.

These are restrictions that violate basic demands of newsgathering and differ from other debates where more access was granted. Accordingly, the AP will not staff the event in any format nor will the AP disseminate any pool photos taken by another outlet. This is consistent with longstanding policy exercised in coverage of many events.

Should access conditions change, the AP will reassess this decision and expedite a new coverage advisory if warranted.

The AP

The AP is a membership organization of news outlets whose photos, print stories, videos and audio are used by print and broadcast outlets around the country, including some in very red states.

Reuters, a competing news service, is owned by Thomson Reuters and is based in Great Britain.

AP reports the following:

South Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Joel Sawyer said there have been restrictions on photography in the past and said the event would be seen by many people even without still photographers present.

Archive photos show photographers from both agencies were allowed in during extensive parts of the 2008 debate, (David) Ake (AP's assistant chief of bureau/photos) said.

Cherie Grzech, Fox director of politics, said: "AP will be allowed access before and after the debate if they are

Dick Harpootlian, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, had a ready response for the stand-off.

"The state Republican Party must have hired whoever was doing the North Korean press events. This kind of thing works well in most totalitarian regimes.

"The rationale is that somebody decided they want to control the public face of this thing. It's just become so obsessive compulsive - they haven't thought it out.

"This debate is a big nothing burger anyway. This is a Little Rascals, let's-put-on-a-show event."

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