Photo by Pete Souza
While on vacation in Panama City, Fla., over the weekend, President Obama barred photographers from shooting him while swimming to prevent the inevitable fuss over his bodacious body. (He learned his lesson while vacationing in Hawaii last December after there was much comment on his “war chest,” as the Daily Mail referred to it.) White House photographer Pete Souza got the shot above, but other reporters and photographers were led out of view while POTUS swam with his kids.
Published July 12, 2010
Police Harassment , Security Guard Harassment
Tags: anti-terrorism measures, BP, gulf coast, Homeland Security, Lance Rosenfield, oil spill, PBS Frontline, photographing refineries, ProPublica
Last week we posted on freelance photographer Lance Rosenfield’s run-in with law enforcement/BP Gestapo while on assignment for ProPublica and PBS Frontline.
The Galveston County Daily News has now published dashboard cam video of the encounter where you can see the officer phoning in Rosenfield’s details to the local FBI, or “frickin’ Homeland Security guy,” noting that he was in the public right of way and basically doing nothing wrong. When Rosenfield objects to his personal information being given to BP’s private security force, he’s told that they are “a certain type of law enforcement.”
Officer Kreitemeyer admits he’s just “going through the motions.” Meanwhile, the first amendment dies a slow death.
As ProPublia’s Stephen Engelberg reports in this piece, The Galveston County Daily News’ has tried unsucessfully to press the police to name the law that allows them to review photos. Associate Editor Mike Smith:
“Nobody can point to a law of the United States of America or the State of Texas that allows police to do this. This is an assumed power that the police have taken on themselves based on this amorphous notion that the demands of the security state allow this and if you’re a good citizen, you shouldn’t make a fuss.”
See more videos at ProPublica
A new rule went into effect last Thursday that bars journalists, reporters and photographers from getting within 65 feet of the oil-soaked beaches, wildlife and booms in the Louisiana Gulf. What does this mean for news coverage going forward? Oh, just that it’ll be really, really sanitized. We’ll no longer see those heartbreaking/maddening photos of sad birds drenched in oil or booms sitting uselessly in marshlands.
Violators could face a fine of $40,000, a felony charge and one to five years in jail. The Coast Guard’s point man Thad Allen says it’s not unusual at all to establish these kinds of safety zones. Hmm…but it does seem unusual to establish this zone on day 73 of the worst oil spill disaster in US history — after nearly three months of futile efforts that are only working toward making BP and government officials in charge of this clean-up look evermore incompetent. It’s so blatantly self-serving, it’s hard to believe they think we’re that dumb. But they’ll get away with it, so I guess we are that dumb.
Anderson Cooper is pissed — as we all should be! He makes a good case for transparency above, saying a rule like this “makes it very easy to hide failure and hide incompetence.” We have a right to see how this spill is unfolding. This is the system of checks and balances — and we need it; it works quite well in disasters like these. Write your representative. Demand they abolish this rule. Don’t take this one lying down.
Read more about this story on Slate, The Raw Story and The Huffington Post.
Even though BP released a statement emphatically saying they are not hindering media access to the spill or anyone involved in the cleanup, things are still tense on the ground. This video is a great exchange between New Orleans TV reporter Scott Walker and some BP contractors from something called Talon Security. The hapless contractor does his best to enforce orders from higher up, even though he can’t really say why he’s doing it. Still, Walker doggedly tries to talk to a worker on break, but the security staffer is adamant that that would be disrupting the cleanup efforts.
Security: “Sir, you cannot talk to anyone there.”
Walker: “Can I yell from a distance?”
Security: “No! I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is.”
And by the way, did you hear how Texas Rep. Joe Barton actually apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the “shakedown” he’s getting from the White House? I think my head is going to explode. And then all the usual wingnuts like Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh got on board, wailing about partisan political crap. Not surprisingly, Barton has received over a million dollars from big oil since 1990, the most of any House member in the same timeframe.
A bottom-dwelling eel found dead on the surface of the BP oil slick. Eels are normally never found on the surface unless pulled up from the bottom by shrimping trawlers. Photo by NWFblogs
Sometimes presidents just don’t get it, do they? When President Obama visited the beleaguered Gulf Coast last week, he made the requisite speech about hearing the constituents’ concerns. “The cameras at some point may leave; the media may get tired of the story; but we will not,” he said.
But as The New York Times Media Decoder blog pointed out, this was a puzzling assessment but also typical administration boilerplate. In fact, the media has been there for six weeks now. They’ve actually even been prevented from covering the biggest environmental disaster in US history by BP and government officials who have seemingly been working against them.
And it really resonates when someone as prominent as NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams speaks out about it, too. As he told the NYT:
“I think the phrase about the cameras leaving is just something that presidential speech writers keep on an F8 key, the kind of stuff they just say, but in this case, it was really off the mark,” he said. “We have all been all over this story and I haven’t seen any sign that we will packing up the cameras any time soon.”
The piece says the story is over-covered if anything. And the public’s interest isn’t waning, according to a Pew Research poll that found 55% of Americans are following the spill “very closely.”
Article from New York Times
Photo by BP America © BP p.l.c.
Rescued sea turtle. Photo by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
It’s official: The BP oil spill is now bigger than that other catastrophic disaster, 1989′s Exxon Valdez, and the worst in US history. And as you might expect in the nefarious, super-connected, high stakes world of Big Oil, there are a lot of people who don’t want the full calamity of that known and reported on.
So local and federal officials, under orders from BP no doubt, are trying to restrict where photojournalists can go. We posted on this earlier in the week, when a CBS News crew encountered some Coast Guard officers and BP contractors who threatened them with arrest if they didn’t leave the oil-covered shoreline.
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t a one-time occurence. A Mother Jones’ reporter wrote about his own account of coming up against local officials while trying to survey the scene at Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge (he was told BP’s in charge because “it’s BP’s oil”). And in a Newsweek piece that runs down the restrictions on press coverage, they mention a Times-Picayune photojournalist whose flyover of the affected areas was canceled once BP officials got wind of it.
“It’s a running joke among the journalists covering the story that the words ‘Coast Guard’ affixed to any vehicle, vessel, or plane should be prefixed with ‘BP,’ ” says Charlie Varley, a Louisiana-based photographer. “It would be funny if it were not so serious.”
Unfortunately BP’s efforts are futile. There is no damage control in a situation that’s already bad beyond belief. They would do more to burnish their image by appearing to be willing and accommodating with every effort that’s being made to cover and control the spill.
Article from Newsweek
The images keep coming, and they’re getting more and more depressing. While at first the BP oil spill was just an intangible leak out in the middle of the water, now there are sharks and sea turtles washing up dead and dragonflies and herons soaked in oil.
BP CEO Tony Hayward says he’s devastated, but it’s hard to imagine his life will really be all that affected by this. He still gets to go home at night and count his bags of cash, with no threat of losing his job, money or well-being. You know what’s really devastated? The Gulf Coast of the U.S.
· See the Boston Globe Big Picture blog’s photo essay here.
· See a Yahoo News photo collection here.
· See TreeHugger reporter Brian Merchant’s coverage, both still photos and video, here.