I think I must have been out of the news loop in recent weeks. I was shocked to learn today that almost two weeks ago, the Obama administration banned the press from filming and photography in BP oil spill areas in the Gulf.
That link takes you to an Anderson Cooper clip from CNN. It’s definitely worth watching, as Cooper clarifies the ban and its significant infringement upon freedom of the press.
I think Cooper is absolutely right in his assessment that this isn’t about safety. This is about controlling the information that is given to the public. If the press isn’t allowed to see, record, and report on what’s actually going on in the Gulf, it will become awfully easy to hide failure and incompetence.
It is true that photos of the clean up—and especially of the devastating effects the spill has had on wildlife—are deeply disturbing and provoke an emotional response in most people. It is also true that BP and the Obama administration have a vested interest in preventing negative, emotional responses by restricting access to the kinds of photos that will educate people about the devastating environmental effects of this catastrophe.
Only trouble is, we have a right to that information.
I keep hearing about BP’s commitment to transparency. I think what’s going here is transparent, alright. But not at all in the way that they meant.
In the meantime, any insubordinate citizens who want to see for themselves the kinds of photos BP and Obama are attempting to keep away from our prying eyes should check out Washington’s Blog where there is a round up of photos and videos. There are some disturbing images there, but we have a right to be disturbed. We have a right to know exactly how disturbing this catastrophe has been and continues to be for so very much of God’s creation.
If we are denied access to basic information about the BP oil spill and its destructive effects, we can’t possibly hold the proper people accountable for cleaning it up.
But that, I suppose, is the whole idea here.
***UPDATE: It appears that popular outrage (and Anderson Cooper’s coverage in particular) have had an effect and re-gained the press access to the oil spill.