Saturday, September 10, 2005

FEMA, Under Pressure, Abandons Policy Restricting Media Access in New Orleans

Rather than fight a lawsuit by CNN, the federal government today abandoned its effort to prevent the media from reporting on the recovery of the dead in New Orleans.

Joint Task Force Katrina "has no plans to bar, impede or prevent news media from their news gathering and reporting activities in connection with the deceased Hurricane Katrina victim recovery efforts," said Col. Christian E. deGraff, representing the task force.

U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison issued a temporary restraining order Friday against a "zero access" policy announced earlier in the day by Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is overseeing the federal relief effort in the city, and Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security director.

The judge was to consider granting a permanent injunction today when the government announced its decision not to enforce the "zero access" policy.

***

In an e-mail to CNN staff, CNN News Group President Jim Walton said the network filed the lawsuit to "prohibit any agency from restricting its ability to fully and fairly cover" the hurricane victim recovery process.

CNN filed suit against Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, arguing that the officials who announced the decision were acting on FEMA's behalf.

"For an agency to unilaterally ban all coverage of a major component of its governmental function, that is, recovery of the deceased victims of the tragedy, is unprecedented," CNN argued in its legal brief. "Instead, the agency has made a subjective, content-based determination that publicizing the operation would be 'without dignity.'"

Because of controversy about how FEMA and other agencies handled the disaster response, CNN lawyers argued, "it is even more vitally important for the public, Congress and the administration to have an independent view of the conduct of this important phase of the operation."

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pray that the media has enough decency to hold off on showing dead bodies until the victims families have been notified.

J.D.

12:57 AM  

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