[State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Tillerson has decided not to take the press corps with him on his trip to Asia. His decision is not in accord with American values and transparency.

Next week, State Secretary Tillerson will be visiting Japan, South Korea, and China. In what has been an unprecedented move in recent political history, he has decided against taking the members of the media with him.

Defending this decision on Friday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that Secretary Tillerson was looking to save money by taking a smaller plane without room for reporters.

However, such line of reasoning for a businessman like Tillerson does not make much sense, since the members of the accompanying press pool always pay for their plane tickets, and having American media reporting on the ground is a valuable asset.

Transparency of foreign affairs

This issue boils down the mistrust prevalent among the media on behalf of Secretary Tillerson.   

His decision may be motivated by his own calculation that the press corps will produce negative coverage about his visit. However, whatever the line of reasoning may be, it is counterproductive as it does not assure the transparency of foreign affairs.

While President Trump is not shy about criticizing the corporate media, he took the press corps with him on AF1. Vice President Mike Pence has also taken the press pool on AF2 to Brussels.

Even if the mistrust between Tillerson and the media is present, it won’t be repaired on its own. Excluding the media from an important foreign state visit only makes matters worse by leaving it to the Asian media to set the tone for the story, which ultimately means a lack of plurality of voices.

Washington bureau chiefs from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and CNN wrote in a letter to the State Department asking if “ a small group of us could come by to see if we can work out an arrangement that suits all of us.” So far, the situation remains unchanged.

Rex Tillerson has been pretty much keeping himself off the media radar since he was sworn in last month. However, Secretary of the State is one of the most visible roles in the U.S. government and the world at large.  It is very important that Tillerson assures transparency and accountability of his work and includes the press corps in all of his diplomatic activities.

America would not be the same country without the fourth estate and for that reason, Rex Tillerson cannot govern the American diplomacy as his private enterprise.

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