Simon Ateba sues Karine Jean-Pierre over loss of White House press pass

African journalist Simon Ateba announced last week that he filed a “First Amendment Rights lawsuit” against White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and the Secret Service, claiming they wrongfully revoked his press badge.

As BizPac Review has reported, Ateba’s ongoing feud with Jean-Pierre has for months generated national headlines.

According to the Cameroon native, the press secretary has made a point of overlooking him during press briefings, refusing to call on him and answer his questions.

The tension has often led to disruptions in the briefing room.

On Thursday, in a statement posted to his X account, Ateba wrote, “After years of discrimination and targeting, I just filed my First Amendment Rights lawsuit against @whitehouse and the @PressSec Karine Jean-Pierre.”

His case has been taken up by the Center For American Liberty.

At issue is the White House’s new “hard pass” criteria.

“The White House Press Office recently revised its credentialing criteria for a media ‘hard pass’ this past May in a brazen attempt to exclude Mr. Ateba from the White House briefing room,” the lawsuit alleges. “As of August 1, 2023, over 440 previously credentialed White House reporters no longer have ‘hard pass’ access to the White House media facilities under the new requirements.”

“While other reporters were affected by the revisions,” the complaint continues, “excluding Mr. Ateba was the primary objective because the White House no longer wanted to deal with him or his questions.”

According to the lawsuit, “As a prerequisite to obtaining a White House hard pass, the applicant must—among other things—first have press credentials from the Supreme Court or one of the four Congressional Press Galleries.”

“For Mr. Ateba, like many journalists, this is no easy task, and it further bears no logical relation to covering the White House, a different branch of government,” Ateba’s attorneys argue. “Obtaining credentials from the Supreme Court is generally effectively impossible for any White House-focused journalist, because the Court only gives out a limited number of passes—and only to reporters who cover the Court full-time.”

And, the complaint states, “the Congressional Press Galleries are only slightly better.”

“Executive committees self-selected by the journalists who make up the Congressional press corps govern each of the four press galleries,” the lawsuit explains. “And these executive committees only issue press credentials to journalists they themselves deem to be ‘of repute.’ As a result, the entrenched, mainstream media have the power to pick and choose which reporters may access Congress and the White House.”

The White House’s new press credential requirements are unconstitutional and directly target Simon,” said Harmeet Dhillon, Center for American Liberty’s CEO. “By outsourcing the credentialing process, the White House is giving a group of elite-minded journalists unbridled discretion to pick and choose which reporters and outlets are worthy of holding the White House accountable. We urge the Court to uphold the First Amendment and declare these new requirements unconstitutional so Simon can continue to do his job.”

Ateba says this lawsuit isn’t just about him, it’s about “maintaining a free press and holding those in power accountable—regardless of whether they like us, agree with our questions, or even read our publications.”

“Today, President Joe Biden is in power,” Ateba said. “Tomorrow, it might be someone else. Regardless of who holds the office, no President should have the authority to decide who covers them.”

“Today, the arbitrary new rules target me; tomorrow, they might target you,” he warned. “This isn’t about just one individual; it’s about a free press, the cornerstone of democracy. In a democracy, people have a right to know, and journalists have a duty to tell.”

“Ateba’s lawsuit aims to declare the revised White House credentialing requirements unconstitutional under the First Amendment, preventing their enforcement. He also questions the U.S. Secret Service’s abrupt termination of his hard pass and demands a preliminary injunction to prevent future terminations without a valid explanation,” the Center for American Liberty states. “Seeking fair access to justice, Ateba also demands reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees. Through this legal battle, he strives not only to safeguard his own rights but to set a precedent that reinforces the essential principles of a free and unobstructed press.”


Melissa Fine


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