In a bit of conditional good news out of the Gulf, public pressure has forced the Coast Guard to lift their ban on the press from getting within sixty yards of boom. Throughout this episode, the Coast Guard has maintained this was being done to protect the boom that is protecting very little, due to dispersants driving the oil underwater and therefore underneath the surface booms they’ve been laying all over the gulf. Now, journalists can get within twenty yards and press passes are being issued freely, even to some of the most critical journalists of the response, crusading journalists like Georgianne Nienaber.
Georgianne credits the public outcry and mainstream journalists like Anderson Cooper for publicizing the restrictions on the press created by this ban, which in effect marked as a felon any reporter trying to give the American public the information they deserve. Before the ban was lifted, any reporter wanting to get close enough to report the story had to break the law, something Georgianne did willingly and freely.
Course there are exceptions to any rule, and this change is no different. The Coast Guard maintains the right to chill free speech should it ever be a “safety or security concern.” No telling what these concerns might be, unless a pelican goes rogue and starts attacking journalists or the Coast Guard gets a little too fire happy with their controlled burn permits and BP accidentally covers critical journalists in oil before lighting a match. Reporters are now free to ask the Unified Command in New Orleans for permission to get within sixty feet, and whereas reporters aren’t being turned down for these permits, at least not yet, this has led to the consolidation of permissions. Reporters still cannot investigate on their own, and rather than watching the oil, the Coast Guard, British Petroleum and the Louisiana Police are watching reporters.
In any case, it is better…but not enough.
I maintain free speech is absolute, even if you want to yell “fire!” in an oil laden Gulf of Mexico crowded with fisherman trying to save all they hold dear…
Perhaps, the battle renews another day when BP again starts telling journalists to leave, like when all that dispersant-sunken oil starts to surface…
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Have a nice day.