(Washington, DC) – The classification of coronavirus response meetings and information by the White House constitutes a severe blow to the public’s right to know and ability to have informed discussions on quarantine, travel, and treatment plans for the virus, PEN America said today. 

“The nation needs to work together and transparently during this state of emergency,” said Thomas O. Melia, Washington director at PEN America. “Attempts to shut out the government’s own experts are inexcusable – especially when such exclusions prevent the public from knowing how their health and safety are being affected. The Trump administration’s secretive approach to handling coronavirus deliberations has insidious implications for our society’s access to information at large. While anyone who has served in government knows there may be some need for classification of aspects of coronavirus discussions, the maximum possible level of transparency in these conversations is imperative. Health officials – not politicians – should make that call. By setting these extreme restrictions, the White House infringes on the public’s right to know, journalists’ right to report, and experts’ right to share their knowledge.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892