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Why is the Obama adminstration prohibiting free press in the Gulf?

Date published: 7/9/2010

AFREE PRESS is essential to a democracy, but on the Gulf Coast, it's as endangered as a brown pelican about to dive into an oil slick. Anyone who values the First Amendment, take note.

Weeks ago, National Incident Commander Thad Allen announced that the media would have "uninhibited access" to areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, unless, of course, there arose security or safety issues. "That's the way I operate," he said.

Now that tune has changed. The Coast Guard has declared that no one may come within 65 feet of a response vessel, booms out on the water or on the beaches, or other areas affected by the spill unless they contact the Coast Guard captain in charge of the Port of New Orleans and get permission. (Reportedly, federal officials originally wanted a 300-foot buffer.) The penalty for ignoring this diktat? Only $40,000 and a Class D felony charge.

What does this portend? CNN's Anderson Cooper says it could mean no more pictures of oil-soaked pelicans on the islands in the Gulf, no photos of booms left uncollected in the water, no records of black sand on the beaches--and no independent scrutiny of government or BP cleanup efforts.

Welcome to Pravda.

It's not just the Coast Guard that's deemed a free press expendable. Mr. Cooper reports that two public broadcasting journalists trying to visit a FEMA medical trailer were denied access. And federal wildlife officials have told CNN they can't photograph oil-soaked birds anymore.

When CNN asked the feds the source of the new restrictions, a spokesman claimed that "local officials" fretted about safety. But Mr. Cooper, who is in the area, says the locals, worried that the gravity of the ecological danger is being smothered, have been begging reporters to write more stories.

Americans deserve to know the truth about what's going on in the Gulf. And, by that, we don't mean the government-doctored type Pravda provided. Real truth. The kind provided by an independent, free press--however inconvenient that may be to the Obama administration.


The open house for Eagle Village is on July 16. An editorial that ran Wednesday was incorrect on that point.