EXPLAINER: Why is media access at the border an issue?

Fatima Nayeli, 13, left, ands her sister, Cynthia Stacy, 8, answer questions from a U.S.Border Patrol agent at an intake site after they were smuggled on an inflatable raft across the Rio Grande river in Roma, Texas, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. The sisters traveled from El Salvador in the hope of reaching relatives living in the U.S. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the White House efforts at the U.S. southern border and work with Central American nations to address root causes of the migration. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Fatima Nayeli, 13, left, ands her sister, Cynthia Stacy, 8, answer questions from a U.S.Border Patrol agent at an intake site after they were smuggled on an inflatable raft across the Rio Grande river in Roma, Texas, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. The sisters traveled from El Salvador in the hope of reaching relatives living in the U.S. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the White House efforts at the U.S. southern border and work with Central American nations to address root causes of the migration. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

NEW YORK – Access to government-run facilities housing young immigrants on the border with Mexico has caused one of the first tussles between news organizations and the two-month-old administration of Joe Biden. Before the doors opened slightly this week, the media was limited in depicting how people in U.S. custody were being treated, and how that compared to what was done in the Trump years.

What's behind that? Here's a look.

WHY HAS MEDIA ACCESS BEEN BLOCKED?

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a cliche for a reason. And governments know it well.

“This is sort of the default that government agencies go to when things are unflattering,” says Freddy Martinez, policy analyst for Open the Government, an organization that argues for government transparency.

News organizations say they have repeatedly sought access and been blocked. The Associated Press, for example, has asked Homeland Security officials for access to Border Patrol facilities at least seven times, without a response. The Biden administration has pointed to the need to establish safeguards for COVID-19 transmission and protecting the privacy of children as they work to set up their system for processing migrants.

“I will commit to transparency, as soon as I am in the position to implement what we are doing,” the president said at a news conference this week. When pressed on how long it would take for that to happen, Biden said he didn't know.

But some journalists called that hypocrisy given his pledges during the campaign. After the news conference, CNN's Jake Tapper said that Biden's stance was “not really in keeping with the transparency that he promised the American people.”