FEMA camps residents not allowed to talk to press without US minders

From Scout:

This is outrageous.

Residents at FEMA camps were not allowed to speak to the press without FEMA reps present. And it’s FEMA policy….

The Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate (7/15/06).

“If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” FEMA spokesperson Rachel Rodi is quoted in the article. “That’s just a policy.”

The Advocate report, by reporter Sandy Davis, describes two separate attempts to talk to people displaced by Katrina that were halted by the intervention of a FEMA security guard. In the first incident, in a Morgan City, Louisiana camp, an interview was interrupted by a guard who claimed that residents of the camp are “not allowed” to talk to the media.

Dekotha Devall, whose New Orleans home was destroyed by the storm, was in her FEMA-provided trailer telling the Advocate reporter of the hardships of life in the camp when a security guard knocked on the door.

“You are not allowed to be here,” the guard is quoted as telling the reporter. “Get out right now.” The guard reportedly called police to force the journalist to leave the camp, and even prevented the reporter from giving the interview subject a business card. “You will not give her a business card,” the guard said. “She’s not allowed to have that.”

Later, at another FEMA camp in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, the reporter attempted to talk to camp resident Pansy Ardeneaux through a chain link fence when the same guard halted the interview. “You are not allowed to talk to these people,” the guard told Ardeneaux. “Return to your trailer now.” The reporter said she and an accompanying photographer were “ordered…not to talk to anyone or take pictures.”

SNIP

Restrictions on the right of citizens to speak freely to the press without government supervision are a clear violation of the 1st Amendment. “They cannot deny media access,” Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Advocate, saying that FEMA’s restrictions were “clearly unconstitutional … and definitely not legal.” Referring to the requirement that interview subjects have a FEMA escort, Leslie said, “That’s a standard for a prison, not a relief park and a temporary shelter.” (all emphasis mine)

In an earlier post I asked if FEMA thought they were Skull and Bones when they would not allow their employees to speak at local government meetings if the press were present…again a policy.

(h/t to Loki at Humid City)