Press censorship is a rather heavy handed way of dealing with bad press, but it was precisely the tactic used by British Petroleum and the Obama administration after so much attention has been drawn to their lack of action to stop the oil spill and clean it up. If anything, the restrictions added to criticism and public distrust of the efforts (lack of efforts?).
So, the Coast Guard is revising the censorship somewhat. From their 7/12/10 Press Release:
National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen today announced new procedures to allow media free travel within the 20-meter boom safety zones if they have followed simple procedures for credentialing, and provided they follow certain rules and guidelines.
"I have put out a direction that the press are to have clear, unfettered access to this event, with two exceptions -- if there is a safety or security concern," said Allen. “This boom is critical to the defense of the marshes and the beaches.”
"We need to discriminate between media, which have a reason to be there and somebody who's hanging around when we know that we've had equipment vital to this region damaged," Allen said.
Previously, media were required to contact local authorities each time they wished to access booming operations. The 20-meter safety zone was created to prevent boats from going over the top of booms; it is not intended to limit media access.
This step will further expand media access to frontlines of the BP oil spill response, and ensure that media representatives have the access they need to report this historic response-while maintaining the effectiveness of more than 560 miles of protective boom currently deployed to protect sensitive shorelines along the Gulf Coast.
A credential will be issued for media representatives to carry and display as needed for the duration of the response. Media representatives can obtain credentials by providing their name, media affiliation, and contact information to the Unified Area Command Joint Information Center at UACNOLAJIC@gmail.com.
There are still some serious problems. Limiting the permits to credentialed media will restrict the free press rights of private individuals. Given rightist bias, advertiser pressure, and cutbacks in corporate media outlets, limiting access to those who are part of that system will also restrict the public's right to know significantly.
Our government still disrespects and hampers citizen media because it isn't subservient to the same corporations that the corporate media are owned by and which own our elected officials. Partial restrictions on access protected by the First Amendment is still unconstitutional and still intended to reduce the amount of public awareness of how little is being done about the spill.
Today's Democracy Now coverage summarizes the point quite well.
Under the revised rules, credentialed journalists will have unfettered access but members of the general public and uncredentialed media must still abide by the 65-foot rule.