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White House restores press pass of Jim Acosta, CNN drops lawsuit

White House issues a set of “rules governing future press conferences” and asks reporters to abide by them

SNS | New Delhi |

CNN on Monday dropped its lawsuit against US President Donald Trump after the White House returned reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass.

“Today the White House fully restored Jim Acosta’s press pass. As a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary. We look forward to continuing to cover the White House,” CNN said in a statement.

The White House temporarily suspended Acosta’s press pass on November 7 after an acrimonious exchange of words between the reporter and President Donald Trump at a press conference where the former was reluctant to immediately hand over the microphone after posing a question.

CNN had sued the President over the action.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced in a statement that the government spoke with Acosta on Monday afternoon and told him that his press pass had been fully restored.

The US administration evidently backed off from the threats it had been making to exclude Acosta from further access to the White House.

READ | White House suspends press pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta

However, the return of the White House reporter’s hard pass is conditional. The White House issued “rules governing future press conferences” and asked Acosta and other reporters to abide by them. The set of new rules at news conferences of the President or senior administration officials includes asking just one question at a time.

“This afternoon we have notified Jim Acosta and CNN that his hard pass has been restored. We have also notified him of certain rules that will govern White House press conferences going forward,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

The CNN reported that the White House had earlier warned Acosta that it would suspend his press pass again at the end of this month, when the temporary ruling to restore it issued last week by a judge expires.

The magistrate, Timothy Kelly, ordered the White House last Friday to temporarily return Acosta’s accreditation for at least 14 days. The period lapses at the end of November if the judge does not decide to extend it.

Reacting to the decision on restoring his pass, Acosta said he was looking forward to returning to the White House.

“Thanks to everybody for their support. As I said last Friday… let’s get back to work,” he tweeted.

According to the new White House guidelines, a reporter can ask only one question and then “yield the floor to other journalists”.

Sanders said it would be at the discretion of the individual holding the news conference whether follow-up questions might be permitted or not.

“Yielding the floor” would include, when applicable, physically surrendering the microphone to White House staff, Sanders said.

“Failure to abide by any of rules may result in suspension or revocation of the journalist’s hard pass,” she warned.

In her long statement, Sanders, however, said the White House created the new rules with a degree of regret.

“We would have greatly preferred to continue hosting White House press conferences in reliance on a set of understood professional norms, and we believe the overwhelming majority of journalists covering the White House share that preference. But, given the position taken by CNN, we now feel obligated to replace previously shared practices with explicit rules,” she said.

Sanders also said the White House believed a more elaborate and comprehensive set of rules might need to be devised, including, for example, for a journalist conduct in the open (non-press room) areas inside and outside the White House and for Air Force One.

“At this time, however, we have decided not to frame such rules in the hope that professional journalistic norms will suffice to regulate conduct in those places. If unprofessional behaviour occurs in those settings, or if a court should decide that explicit rules are required to regulate conduct there, we will be forced to reconsider this decision,” she said.

The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) has welcomed the decision of the Trump administration. “The White House did the right thing in restoring Jim Acosta’s hard pass,” a PTI report quoted WHCA president Olivier Knox as saying.

“The White House Correspondents’ Association had no role in crafting any procedures for future press conferences,” he said.

Concerned over the impact of the White House’s decision to debar Acosta on freedom of the press. a number of media outlets, including Trump’s favoured Fox News, had backed CNN on the legal remedy it had sought against the action.

(With agencies)