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Published January 22, 2009, 12:00 AM

News agencies refuse to distribute photos

NEW YORK - Three news agencies refused to distribute White House-provided photos of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Wednesday, arguing that access should have been provided to news photographers.

NEW YORK - Three news agencies refused to distribute White House-provided photos of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Wednesday, arguing that access should have been provided to news photographers.

The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse said the White House was breaking with long-standing tradition in not allowing news photographers to capture the president at work in the Oval Office on his first day.

``We are not distributing what are, in effect, visual press releases,' said Michael Oreskes, managing editor for U.S. news at the AP.

The news agencies have used White House-provided images in the past for areas in the White House where media access is generally not permitted, such as the Situation Room or the private residence. But they contend that the Oval Office is the public office of the president and photographers should have access rather than rely on a government handout.

``Using these photos would be a major break with established precedent and would compromise the long-held tradition of independent photo coverage of the president and the White House by the major news agencies,' said Courtney Dolan, spokeswoman for Thomson Reuters.

There was no immediate reply to e-mail and phone messages left with Obama representatives.

The White House later released a photograph of the president retaking the oath of office with Chief Justice John Roberts, which the AP also rejected.

Vincent Amaluy, director of photography for North and South America for AFP, said he suspected first-day confusion was more at play than an attempt to clamp down on access.

``We are hopeful of negotiating an amicable solution,' Oreskes said.

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