Friday, May 28, 2010

Trampling on the First Amendment?

Newsweek's Matthew Philips says local and federal officials -- working with BP -- are keeping news photographers away from sites hardest hit by the Gulf oil spill.

Among the incidents:

- A CBS TV crew was threatened with arrest by contractors, who were accompanied by two Coast Guard members, for attempting to film an oil-covered beach. They were told: "This is BP rules, not ours."

- Mother Jones magazine reports that four police cars were used to block media access to Elmer's Island and that members of the media were told to go to a community center marked "BP Information Center."

- A charter plane company says it was denied permission to make a flyover after BP officials learned that a photographer from the New Orleans Times-Picayune was on board.

The Coast Guard says in a statement on the official website of the crisis response command that there are no rules governing the media and that many reporters and photographers are embedded with crews. The only time the media might be blocked, the statement says, is for safety reasons or for interfering with response operations.

So much for hope, change and respect for the Constitution.

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