Editorial: Federal workers cannot be silenced


“Not Alt World” is one of several Twitter accounts that arose after National Parks Service employees were told to take down tweets on verified accounts that related to climate change. 

Editorial Board

The new presidential administration is certainly off to a quick start. President Donald J. Trump and his White House team have been shifting American policy with many controversial executive orders and memorandums.

Early last week, news broke that the new administration was halting the flow of public information from several governmental agencies to the public.

Federal employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of the Interior, Transportation, Agriculture and Health and Human Services were told that they were no longer able to share information freely via the press or social media without the consent of senior officials.

Media outlets and politicians have called the directive a “gag order” with the purpose of withholding information from the public. New White House and department officials disagree and say the halt in communication and some funding was simply for review and to aid in the transition from the Obama administration to the new Trump administration.

Barring public employees from communicating with the very citizens they are working on behalf of is downright outrageous. The American public was aware of Trump’s stances on various issues such as regulations, climate change, Obama’s health care law, immigration and more.

The stark differences in public policy from Obama and Trump will make for a less than smooth transition; however, banning the men and women who work in certain agencies from communicating with the outside world shrouds our government in needless secrecy and does not help our federal government peacefully move from one president to another.

Scientists and activists alike had another reason to be weary of the forced halt in communication from our nation’s public research and regulative institutions. Soon after taking the oath of office, Trump’s team edited several governmental websites.

The official White House website has only one search result for the worlds “climate” and “change.” That’s right, Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower visited the milder “climate” of San Antonio, Texas, and experienced “changes” in official hospitality as first lady.

With this new administration’s use of “alternative facts” and an ongoing war with journalists and the press, a gag order is nothing to take lightly. We’ve already seen the Trump administration lie to every American. We know that Trump at least used to believe that climate change is a hoax on the part of the Chinese, and many of his Republican allies still dispute the data and consensus about man’s impact on our climate.     

And so, there is reason to be worried. Will government agencies be used to perpetuate blatant falsehoods for the benefit of Trump? Will publicly-funded research about the causes and effects of climate change and other scientific issues be allowed to continue? Will the federal employees working on these issues be able to tweet about their findings or talk to a local reporter?

A gag order, even if temporary, with the objective of transitioning leadership, is an affront to our American values and Constitution. Fortunately for the American public and unfortunately for Trump, people will always find a way to heard — even if it requires a rogue Twitter account.