A Media Blackout of the USDA Has Been Overturned
President Donald Trump’s administration implemented a media blackout and communications freeze yesterday regarding several of the largest government agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, and the National Park Service.
As of last night, the media blackout of the Agricultural Research Service arm of the USDA, which prevented scientists from communicating with the public or the press in any form, from press releases to tweets, has been rescinded. The ARS claims the original order should not have been implemented and was a “flawed” decision.
"This internal email was released without Departmental direction, and prior to Departmental guidance being issued," the USDA said in a statement. "ARS will be providing updated direction to its staff. … ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public."
The original email sent to employees on Jan. 23 reflected an alarming trend of cracking down on communication in government agencies:
“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email procured by BuzzFeed News. “This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content.”
As of the time of publication, there has been no word yet on whether the communications and hiring freezes will be lifted at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, or National Park Service.