Gulf Oil censorship: Media banned from covering disaster

The U.S. Coast Guard has banned journalists from covering the Gulf Coast oil disaster.

Anyone who comes within 65 feet of “oil spill response operations” could face up to five years in prison and a $40,000 fine.

But because these “oil spill response operations” apparently cover much of the beaches, CNN’s Anderson Cooper describes the rule as banning reporters from “anywhere we need to be,” making it “very easy to hide incompetence or failure.”

Riki Ott, a Marine toxicologist and journalist, reported that the U.S. Coast Guard has also expanded its flight restrictions.  It originally prevented aircraft from flying within 3,000 feet of the leak, and now censors anyone from being able to see even the Coast from the air.

“BP is using federal agencies to shield itself from public accountability,” Ott wrote in a recent blog post.  “People in coastal communities where I visited last week in Louisiana and Alabama know an inconvenient truth: BP — not our president — controls the response.”

Scientists have been begging the federal government to allow them access to the area to obtain the most basic readings of water contamination, but the government also refuses to let them into the area.

One of two things is happening: either President Obama is carelessly ignoring the PR aspect of this disaster, or the government is covering something up.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) has launched a website to monitor the censorship.

“We are concerned about continuing reports that journalists are being denied access to sources and public places necessary for them to fully cover this important story,” AFTRA national president Roberta Reardon said in a statement.  “The causes and effects of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon (oil rig) must be uncovered and analyzed, and our only hope of getting to the truth is through investigative journalism by professionals with unfettered and unfiltered access to the sources,” she added.

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