Washington: A federal US court on Friday ordered the White House to immediately reinstate the press credentials of CNN’s correspondent Jim Acosta in a ruling seen as a major victory for mediapersons.
The press pass of Acosta, CNN’s White House Correspondent, was suspended last week after an altercation he had with President Donald Trump during a news conference. The White House had accused him of placing his hand on an intern. Acosta and the CNN has denied the allegations. CNN supported Acosta and this week it filed a lawsuit against the White House urging the court to reinstate the press pass of its Chief White House Correspondent. In his order, US District Judge Timothy Kelly asked the White House to restore the press pass for Acosta that gives him regular access to the White House grounds to cover events and press conferences.
Asked about the court’s ruling on CNN, President Trump said: “No, just people have to behave. We’re writing up rules and regulations. If they don’t listen to the rules and regulations we’ll end up back in court and we’ll win, or we’ll just leave”. “You have to practice decorum. We want total freedom of the press… but you have to act with respect, you’re in the White House. So we’re setting up a certain standard and we always have the option of just leaving, we have the right to just leave. I’ve instructed my people to just leave” if not being treated with respect, he said. Earlier Acosta was welcomed by other White House reporters when he entered the White House grounds.
Acosta thanked his colleagues in the press who supported him this week. “I want to thank the judge for the decision he made today. Let’s go back to work,” he told reporters outside the US District court. The White House said it will abide by the court’s ruling. “Today, the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House. In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass,” White House Press Secretary Sarah sanders said. “We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future. There must be decorum at the White House,” Sanders said.
Judge Kelly, who was appointed by the Trump administration, however did not say that if suspension of the hard pass was in violation of the First Amendment. He said that the due process was not followed in suspension of the press pass. Representing the administration, the Department of Justice told the court that the president had broad discretion to choose who gets access to the White House. CNN has some 50 reporters with White House press pass. Judge Kelly in his order noted that the White House deprived Acosta of “due process” when it suspended his press pass. The court case on this issue would continue.
In a statement on the twitter, CNN said: “We look forward to a full resolution in the coming days. Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press”. The news network was supported by top American news organisations including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox news. White House Correspondents Association also supported CNN in the court. Referring to a 1977 DC Circuit Court ruling, Judge Kelly said the government cannot boot out reporters “arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons” and must follow a clear process to do it.
Once the White House opens to reporters then the due process protections apply to removing any media, he argued. “Certainly he need not ever call on Mr Acosta again, but… the government must provide Mr Acosta due process,” the Judge said. The White House Correspondents’ Association welcomed the ruling. “The White House Correspondents’ Association welcomes today’s ruling, in which a federal judge made it clear that the White House cannot arbitrarily revoke a White House press pass. “We thank all of the news outlets and individual reporters who stood up in recent days for the vital role a free and independent news media plays in our republic,” said Olivier Knox, WHCA President.