FOIA filed on muzzling of media in BP oil disaster

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The SeizeBP.org Campaign sent the following press release to the media. Please share this with your friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers and fellow students.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, on behalf of SeizeBP.org, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding the underlying documents that purport to substantiate the Coast Guard’s new ban on media access to areas affected by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe.

“This attempt to muzzle the press on behalf of BP is just the latest in a series of actions that indicate collusion between the federal government and a giant corporate entity that has created an environmental disaster due to criminal negligence,” stated Carl Messineo, a spokesperson for Seize BP and public interest attorney who filed the records demand.

In a July 1, 2010 news conference, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the oil spill, explained that the new restrictions were initiated on the basis of his receipt of complaints from county commissioners that, absent access restrictions, damage could theoretically occur. Allen did not identify the sources of such complaints or the unnamed commissioners.

The penalty for reporters or journalists who may enter the new exclusion zones without permission is up to a $40,000 fine and potentially a class D felony conviction.

This Freedom of Information Act request demands: “disclosure of copies of all complaints or requests that formed the basis for, or which prompted, the new exclusion zones. To the extent that such complaints were made verbally, the request seeks disclosure of any documents memorializing or summarizing or logging or otherwise recording such complaints.”

This request also demands “disclosure of all communications with BP and its agents regarding restrictions or limitations upon media access.”

“Seize BP, as does the public at large, relies on the freedom of the media for information on the conduct of the BP oil spill catastrophe clean up and related efforts,” stated Carl Messineo. “Indeed, throughout this crises statements of BP as to the nature and extent of the spill, and as echoed by the Coast Guard, have been found to be inaccurate and false. It is a matter of great urgency that the U.S. public has the ability to receive first-hand independent accounts regarding what is considered the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history.”

By press release dated June 30, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center announced a new Coast Guard initiative to establish 20 meter exclusion zones around boats and boom that would generally restrict media access. See June 30, 2010 news release, “Coast Guard establishes 20-meter safety zone around all Deepwater Horizon protective boom operations” ; See also July 3, 2010 Media Advisory, “Procedures Established For Media to Access Safety Zones On a Case-by-Case Basis”; July 4, 2010 news release, “Statement on concerns about recently enacted safety zones.”

Click here to read the FOIA demand.

Tens of thousands of people have joined the Seize BP campaign. Seize BP is a grassroots public advocacy campaign launched in response to the BP oil spill catastrophe to call for immediate and comprehensive relief to the working people throughout the Gulf coast whose lives and communities are being harmed or destroyed, through the seizure of BP’s assets and placement of those funds in a trust for immediate relief. Seize BP has organized demonstrations in more than 50 cities. Volunteers are organizing demonstrations, rallies, banner drops, press conferences and collecting petitions throughout the country. For more information, go to www.SeizeBP.org.


The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a not-for-profit legal and educational organization which, among other things, seeks to ensure government transparency in operations and constitutional accountability. For more information go to: www.JusticeOnline.org.

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