Blackwater Tosses Local Reporters From Town Meeting

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 11:37 AM EDT

Blackwater USA likes to think of itself as a good neighbor. Last Thursday evening, the company hosted a community meeting at its 7,000-acre compound in Moyock, North Carolina. The twice annual event, organized by Blackwater President Gary Jackson, is meant to update neighbors about the firm's activities and allow local citizens to air complaints about Blackwater's impact on the surrounding community.

Sounds great, right? Well, in typical Blackwater fashion, the meeting—which focused solely on hyper-local issues like noise pollution and traffic congestion—was closed to reporters. No national security-related topics were discussed, nor were the company's activities in Iraq, but nevertheless reporters from Norfolk television station WTKR were turned away at the compound's front gate. According to a report on WTKR's website, several local citizens were also given the boot "because they did not live in neighborhoods next door to Blackwater." Blackwater reportedly publicized the meeting with a small advertisement in several local newspapers. Responding to criticism that it did not do enough to encourage local turnout, the company has pledged to advertise future meetings more aggressively.

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