Capitol Hill Buzz: Committee clamps down on picture taking

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2015 1:17 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Armed Services Committee has decided to restrict picture-taking at its hearings, and news photographers are balking at the new rules.

Committee members say the constant clicking of shutters is disruptive. Photographers say they are already chafing under restrictions on Capitol Hill.

With 63 members, the House Armed Services Committee is the largest in Congress. That means the area between witness tables and the tiered dais where members sit to ask questions is cramped.

"During big hearings, it gets very loud," said committee spokesman Claude Chafin. "The shutters and noise and the shuffling echoes even louder up above."

He said that starting next year, the committee will allow photographers to shoot pictures or video from that middle zone at the start of each hearing, but must leave after the chairman and ranking member finish their opening statements.

That's frustrating photographers.

"This is just one more window closing to the public's view of how Congress works," said Tom Williams, staff photographer for CQ Roll Call and a member of the Standing Committee of Press Photographers.

Chafin noted that the hearings are live-streamed so public access is not being impeded. He said the committee will provide 16 seats for members of the media and three seats for photographers inside the hearing room.

"The most important asset we have in creating pictures is the ability to move," Williams said. "The idea of having a limited amount of photographers sitting in stationary chairs is not realistic."