Images BP Doesn’t Want You to See

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As a writer and photographer covering the oil spill in the Gulf, I’ve been frustrated by the well-documented efforts by BP and the US Government to limit media access to the damage. The restrictions tightened last week, when the Coast Guard announced rules that prevent the public—including news photographers and reporters—from coming within 20 meters (about 65 feet) of any response vessels or booms on the water or beaches. Violate the “safety zone” rule and you can be slapped with a $40,000 fine and prosecuted under a Class D felony.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen defended the buffer, saying it is “not unusual” to enact measures for “marine events” or “fireworks demonstrations.” Allen spokesperson Megan Molney wrote in a July 4 email: “These 20-meter zones are only slightly longer than the distance from a baseball pitcher’s mound to home plate. This distance is insignificant when gathering images.” Perhaps Molney has never shot video or taken a photograph. But those of us working here know that the real impact—and, one fears, the real goal—of the so-called safety zone is to make it difficult to document the impact of the spill on the land and the wildlife.

Click here for Julie’s photos.

This post was produced by the Atlantic as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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