Troubling New Ban On Photographers Covering Gulf Oil Spill

- - Ethics

I’m surprised they didn’t mention homeland security as a reason for this new ban. That seems to be a de facto reason these days to prevent photographers from taking pictures of stuff.

There Are 41 Comments On This Article.

  1. the joint information has sent out a couple defensive emails since essentially making it impossible to independently cover the story. Here is a quote from one I got on the 4th of July” These 20-meter zones are only slightly longer than the distance from a baseball pitcher’s mound to home plate. This distance is insignificant when gathering images.” Megan Molney, a spokes person for Thad Allan wrote. I gather has never used a camera or a video camera.

    This is shameful. What happened to freedom of the press.
    Anderson Nailed it.

    What is it. Obama doesn’t want his daughter to keep bugging him about the birds?

  2. Ellis Vener

    Disgusting. Unless they reverse this very fast, I won’t vote for Obama again.

    • @Ellis Vener,
      Didnt you know better than to vote for him in the first place?
      You got your CHANGE, tho.

      • Given the options in 2008, it was by far the better choice. If that election were held again today Obama /Biden would still get my vote over McCain / Palin.

  3. Freeman Zygote

    Not surprized, as bans have sometimes included reporters, too. This is (again!) the usual lack of openess and “transparency” in such matters, be these things either corporate-caused disasters or natural disasters (or both).
    We like to think we live (and as taxpyers, pay for) in a democracy, where news gathering (including photos and videos) is permitted, so that the public can learn the dangers and potential aftermath of the effects of this particular situation and if these are not contained and hopefully rectified. As the public has been assisting (many as volunteers in regard to wildlife) in attempts to contain this “leak”–which will continue at least into August–which means nearly four months of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico…and other surrounding waters, which currentslike the Loop and Gulf Stream to the Atlantic are moving; plus the hurricane season, it seems inevitable now that other States and countries/islands may be included in dealing with the growing pollution problem. Amen.

  4. I booked a helicopter within 48 hours of the spill and was told by my pilot that their was a no-fly zone that included media over a vast area of the gulf. The reasoning and explanation was that there were many aircraft flying low and slow, spreading dispersants across the water.

    BP was offering media flights to and from the disaster site – in their Sikorsky S-76 . They were flying much higher than I would care to shoot from and of course, you had to shoot through the plexiglass windows.

    Several clients wanted me to shoot that week and all I could do was hope to find a way around the ban. I never did.

    I know several photographers who flew with environmental groups in areas near the ban and they were successful flights.

  5. An a typical reaction to public humiliation for a blunder of epic proportion. So it is easier to change the focus. HA

  6. This is so disturbing, but I am not shocked. I’ve documenting environmental injustice for 15 years and have known that polluting industry controls the media. Now it is blatantly out there for all to see. Oh, and they will lie and say whoever is talking bad about them are nuts or ate bad food…

  7. Media have only themselves to blame for the continuing denial of access. First the media–in general–caved in to the military with its “embedded” scheme. Little was said in mainstream media either print or electronic to oppose this idea. Then, and now, the use of “national security” as a catch all device to deny access has not been–again, in general, opposed by media. These devices and restrictions severely threaten our democracy. A citizen’s “right to know” is the very basis for making informed decisiions and thus to vote.

    I also fault President Obama, since as a constitutional scholar, he should be well aware of the consequences of these actions both by the government and by private business such as BP. He pledged ,when running for office,to have an open, transparent administation, yet so far has seemed to be following previous administrations in denying the public (read media) the access it needs to make informed decisions.

    What would have Robert Capa, Ernie Pyle, Gene Smith, David Douglas Duncan, Eddie Adams and others have said if confronted with similar restrictions?

  8. I think they reason that they chose 65 feet is because they need sufficient room for Tony Hayward to be able to park his yacht in when he decides to come back to the gulf and drop anchor and do some real work

  9. I forgot to mention that “The Cove” won an oscar for its coverage of a national embarassment for Japan. Thanks to Louis Psihoyos and his crew the world has learned of a dirty secret kept from public view for years by Japan.

    • @Bill Gillette,
      Yes, an excellent example of how media restrictions are used to hide something from the public. The entire film was made illegally.

  10. David Hobby

    This is bullshit.

    And yes, Obama is a constitutional lawyer. If the manipulation of what the public is allowed to see and not see continues, the buck stops with him. If this stands, he would lose me over it.

    I cannot believe an enterprising lawyer has not filed a very public lawsuit on behalf some specific media org.

  11. David Hobby

    Second thought, CNN needs to send in a reporter to TOFTT and get themselves arrested and charged under this ridiculous restriction. And them report the hell out of it, nonstop.

  12. They’ve gone from segregating a demonstrating public into far removed, fenced off, police controlled areas of protest (ie- cages) during politicized events, to effectively cordoning off the press at every desired step.

    And the groundswell of protest and outrage from the electronic and print media, not to mention the public at large, is absolutely deafening!

    That’s the Change I’ve come to believe in.

    Land of the Free!

  13. Being Canadian I don’t really want to cast aspersions on American Politics (…..wait a minute…..yes I do…..) but I’ve always thought Pete Townsend got it right when he wrote (and sang): “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.
    Political office is like a black hole, it bends and perverts those who get too close to it.

  14. The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press. But in America that guarantee is eroding away slowly and silently. When the government (local and Federal) thinks the media can sway public opinion they get an insatiable urge to control the flow of information. That is what’s happening here. The Fed. don’t want people to see oil covered wildlife. This is predictable and consistent behavior. When access is to denied it’s now under the umbrella of “Public Safety”. Sorry to say, but I don’t think there are enough first amendment lawyers to correct the wrong. Get used to its been going on for years..

  15. How is this different from putting a chain link fence around a construction site so people don’t get hurt?

    • @Speed, I’ve never seen a chain linked fence around PUBLIC waters or beaches specifically placed to keep out the press.

      • @Tim, . Thank you for your well researched, penetrating and insightful response. I too have never seen such barriers “specifically to keep out the press.” Do you have evidence that this policy is designed “specifically to keep out the press?” Or is it designed to keep all people not involved in the cleanup from getting in the way, slowing progress and getting hurt?

        • @Speed,Ok, I was mistaken to say, “specifically”. No, I don’t have such evidence. I have however been a newspaper photojournalist for over 20 years and, like other journalists who have practiced that long, know when PR tactics are at work to protect corporate interests.

          By the way, I don’t get baited into blog arguments, so we’ll just end this conversation right here.

          • @Tim, ” … I have however been a newspaper photojournalist for over 20 years and, like other journalists who have practiced that long, know when PR tactics are at work to protect corporate interests.”

            Appeal to authority.

    • @Speed, well it’s a bit more like placing a fence around a construction zone, then telling people that they can’t come within 65 ft of the zone or else they will be charged with a felony.

      I seriously doubt this is about safety, although if it is you do bring up a good point. How come I can walk next to or under construction sites in the city but reporters who have been allowed in war zones can’t get close to oil. Why doesn’t the government care about my safety?

      -Ari

  16. Ellis Vener

    Retired Admiral Thad Allen’s career from 202 to the present (from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thad_Allen )

    Flag officer

    Allen’s first assignment as a flag officer was as Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District, where he directed all operations in the Southeastern United States and Caribbean. Following that assignment he served as Commander, Atlantic Area and U.S. Maritime Defense Zone Atlantic. In this capacity he oversaw all Coast Guard operations on the U.S. East Coast, Gulf Coast, and Great Lakes in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Allen served as the Coast Guard’s Chief of Staff from May 2002 until May 2006. As Chief of Staff, Allen was third in the Coast Guard’s command structure, and was commanding officer of Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.[3]
    Allen is a member of the Coast Guard Academy Board of Trustees. He was also the director of the bureaucratic transition of the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security.
    [edit]Hurricane Katrina

    On September 5, 2005, while serving as Coast Guard Chief of Staff, Allen was appointed deputy to Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael D. Brown by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and placed in charge of Hurricane Katrina search-and-rescue and recovery efforts. Former colleagues interviewed after the announcement praised Allen as well-suited to the task.[4]
    On September 9, 2005, Allen was given full command of the Bush administration’s Hurricane Katrina onsite relief efforts. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff elevated Allen following the removal of Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael D. Brown from that position. Allen announced on January 25 that he would be relieved of this responsibility on January 27, 2006.[5]
    [edit]Commandant

    Allen assumed the duties of the 23rd Commandant of the Coast Guard on May 25, 2006. He was appointed to a four-year term by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate.[6] Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr. succeeded him as Commandant on May 25, 2010, in a change of command ceremony.[7]
    [edit]Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    On April 30, 2010, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that Allen would serve as the National Incident Commander for the federal government’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.[8] Even after his end of service as Commandant on May 25, 2010, Allen continued to serve on active duty in the Coast Guard as National Incident Commander.[9]
    [edit]Retirement

    On June 30, 2010, Admiral Thad Allen officially retired from the U.S. Coast Guard.

  17. This is such a sad day for our country. Fasicm? Really? I guess voting for democrat or republican is basically meaningless… both are so locked into pandering for corporates that the citizens take a back seat to whatever goes these days..

  18. Yes, it sounds like a mess and inappropriate. But, really, you’re not going to vote for Obama over this? Do you really think any other president would handle it different, particularly republicans? Or that this particular issue (the off limits area) is one to pull support based on? lets get some perspective.

  19. Not surprised at all. Obama showed let us know his character all on the campaign trail. Our constitutional rights are being eroded daily.

  20. Jacob Lesner

    Ha Ha Ha.
    This is what you all get for voting for a Communist.
    Glad I am not a citizen.

  21. shelly strazis

    I just got back from shooting in Gulfport MS and Grand Isle, LA. I am numb and heartbroken about the future of the Gulf and the people who’s lives will forever be effected.
    My Fourth of July was spent with eco warrior, James Pribram, professional surfer, Mary Osborne, and stand up paddle champion, Chuck Patterson in Gulfport, MS. They want to bring more awareness of this tragedy to our fellow watermen and anyone who will listen. We were invited to fundraiser to save the Mississippi Sound and the locals were so appreciative that the watermen came all the way from California to show their support. When we walked across the street to the beach that is usually packed on the fourth, we found a desolate beach in the daylight with some kids that were playing in the water as the tar balls wash ashore. Will those kids have cancer in ten years when they are teenagers? After the sunset we sat on the beach wall and watched the fireworks from a barge on the water. It was bittersweet getting lost in the beauty of the fireworks as they exploded over a ocean that is dying and a beach that is covered in tar balls.
    On July 5, we went to Grand Isle, LA. Driving the two lane road into Grand Isle and walking down the beach felt like a scene from an eerie movie. We were given dirty looks at the local restaurant and followed by the private security the whole time we walked down the public beach from one “zone” to another and stopped by a sheriff after we crossed into the “hot zone”/orange fence. He told us that if we went back, we be taken to a contamination station and arrested. A young girl at the ticket booth going into the beach park told us that we could not go swimming because we would “catch the cancer”. When we stopped to take pictures in a mock graveyard covered in white crosses labeled with all of the ocean’s gifts that we could loose, we were angrily honked at by the oil workers. Catfish and Dustin, a couple of BP safety workers pulled over and jumped out of their pickup with their beers and cigarettes to chat with us California “do gooders”.
    On our way back to Gulfport, we stopped in New Orleans for dinner only to find oyster, crab, and several fish crossed off the menu board.
    The following days we drove to the different beaches and harbors and found very few people willing to talk with us. In Mississippi all of the harbors are closed for recreational boating. The only boats allowed to leave are controlled by BP. We came across an oil cleanup boat that was still in the harbor due to weather and a young worker started telling us that he has not been paid by BP in 5 weeks. He was quickly called into the galley and then some older men answered our questions with scripted answers as the kid mouthed “bullshit” to us from the stern. Our local guide and photographer, Pat Heidingsfelder took us to meet his father who told us how devastating it is for their town and people who are barely recovering from hurricane Katrina. Imagine loosing your home and five years later living this disaster….
    The suicides have started.
    BP is hiring people with boats to go spot and clean up oil. They are called “vessels of opportunity”. These boat owners are paid about 20K a month to go look for and try to clean up oil. Most of these are inland boat owners who have quit their jobs to take advantage of this. They are given a commercial captain’s when they are merely a weekend boater and have very little knowledge of commercial boating rules.
    Along the beach, the workers partially fill thousands of plastic bags with the tar balls, which then go into a dumpster, which will then go to a land fill and seep into our water.
    During our trip we were hit by several storms. It made me wonder where that rain came from, what was in it, and how far will it travel.
    Our friend, Jeff Archer from Yolo paddleboards drove in from Destin, FL and shared stories from his community. Their junior lifeguard program had to be canceled this summer because the water cannot be guaranteed safe enough for the kids to swim in.
    Being a native Floridian, I cannot imagine the Gulf without being able to swim it’s waters, admire the wildlife, and dine on it’s gifts.
    What is going here is way, way beyond political party affiliation, it is about having the heart, conscience, and respect for the ocean and the people that want it and need it.
    By the way, I HATE writing. I want to use my gift as a photographer to tell the story, not words.

  22. censorship impacting wildlife rescue. unbelieveable. What is the coast guard doing to assist the crisis? Nothing. Instead they are censoring our flow of information. They should focus first on the flow of oil impacting our ‘coast’…hence ‘coast guard’…
    hmmm. shame on the president if he truly supports this/these policies

    He looks more like Bush everyday.

  23. hey listen 65 feet is nothing ever herd of zoom lens the fact that the ceos and owners of BP that ran their company recklessly are free to run around and and live their life and are not striped of all their wealth and freedom is disgusting these men belong in jail because their greed will ruin fishing and beaches for years to come affecting all those people whom make their living on the water or from tourist trade kinda makes you want to stone some men that are responsible and lets not forget Halaburtin was involved thanks again Bush and Chaney once again America gets boned but these two idiots

  24. There is little investigative journalism in the US today, but I’m glad some people still seem to be trying. Usually the practice of probing journalism is discouraged by the news organs (also, just by general operating procedures today that bypass real research) before it even gets to the point of a clash with authorities and officials (instead the report so often is a rewrite of the idea “officials say”), but clearly some people at CNN have a problem with this top secret approach to disaster coverage and that seems like progress to me — change, if you will. I voted for Obama and support him as a President, but I’m still hoping for change on many fronts.