Bush Administration Pulls Funding
For Foreign Press Centers
By Seth Effron, Media
Nation Staff | July
BOSTON - Hiro Aida, Washington bureau chief for Japans Kyodo
News, arrives in Boston to cover the National
Democratic Convention without some critical support.
For the first time in at least 20 years, the Foreign Press
Center, an arm of the State Department that supports
the international press in the United States, isn't
funding or supporting press centers at the national
political conventions. As many as 400 international
reporters are expected to cover the two events this year.
"We are not so experienced in U.S. politics; and giving
us an objective view about why Americans are doing
this, explaining American customs and other things
about bridging understanding for the foreign press [is
important]," Aida said in a telephone interview from his
office in Washington as he prepared to travel to Boston.
Congressional news media galleries, which handle
the distribution of convention press credentials, were
sent scrambling when they learned that State
Department funding would not be available. Jerry
Gallegos, director of the House of Representatives
Press Gallery, said the centers typically provide
workspace, staffing, phone lines, cable TV, copiers and
fax machines for the international press.
The centers "do God's work on behalf of the United
States and the foreign press," Gallegos said. At past
conventions, the Foreign Press Center has offered
policy and politics briefings. Four years ago, the center
offered a tour of Philadelphia historic sites for
international reporters covering the 2000 Republican
National Convention. During this past winter's caucus
and primary season, the Foreign Press Center
provided support for international reporters in Iowa,
New Hampshire, South Carolina and other stops on
the trail to the presidential nominations.
The centers "have been very helpful in very many ways,"
Kyodo News' Aida said. "We expect their help [in order]
for us to understand and cover politics and other
issues here. . . . This is an important time for the
foreign press to report about the United States and
have a deeper understanding."
When contacted this week about the matter, State
Department officials said funds for the centers, which
cost between $15,000 and $25,000 per convention,
were cut for budget reasons. Some officials on Capital
Hill suggested that the move is an expression of the
Bush Administration's dissatisfaction with the tone of
international reporting on the conflict in Iraq, as well as
other coverage of the administration. The State
Department officials denied that this was the reason.
Gallegos said the congressional news media galleries
have been seeking alternative funds for the centers.
Some minimal funding was arranged late last week for
a center at the GOP event in New York, but the galleries
couldnt find money for the Democratic Convention.
Aida said the Democrats are providing some room for
the international press. "We have some small desks in
the press stand inside the Fleet Center and phones,
and can work from there." In addition, the Kyodo News
bureau chief plans to file using cell phones or from