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Thursday, September 08, 2005

First Amendment Alert?

The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.
This decision is being criticized by some as a banning of the First Amendment right to free speech, mostly by those on the left of the political divide. I don't fully agree.

There are two possible motivations for FEMA's restriction on photgraphing corpses:

-FEMA doesn't want identifying photos of victims who died in the storm plastered all over every media outlet. The indignity of that is considerable, not to mention the risk of those watching or reading finding out the whereabouts of missing family members in the most horrific possible way.

-FEMA is perpetuating a cover-up. Both by not exposing the scope of the tragedy in how many scores died - and risk more finger-pointing and accusations that many of these deaths could have been preventable if nor for FEMA's mismanagement, and by not hitting home the human facet to the tragedy by showing actual bodies.

I am not discounting the latter as a possible motivation for this restriction. I actually believe that by refusing to allow photos of corpses to be published, FEMA has a "bird in the hand and one in the bush" (so to speak). But that doesn't excuse ignoring the risk of offending family members of victims, or risking indignity to those who perished.

FEMA's decision is a reasonable one.


Anonymous ephshap said...

Good morning America!

this is the same fraudulaent restriction placed on the media by the feds for the past three years disallowing them to film the arrivals of flag draped coffins form afghanistan and iraq so as to not have them shown on the tv news.

11:57 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Agreed, but in this case I actually think that some value can be found in the decision. I find the risk of posting pictures of the dead befpore their family members are informed to be too great to justify posting pics of the corpses. At least any identifying details of the corpses.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The trouble is not that they are forbidding pictures, but that they are forbidding journalists into certain areas where they might take pictures. This does sound like something to hide.

I simple request not to PUBLISH pictures of the dead or identifiable pictures would be more than enough to stop the major newpapers and TV stations from. The issue isn't pictures. They are censoring coverage.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Moishe Q. Public said...

As said, just restrict indentifiable pictures. Most of the bodies won't be, unfortunately. Sorry, MO4, gotta disagree strongly this time. The media, however pukey they can be, do control themselves in this way, proven by 9/11. There was only about an hour where they showed jumpers and then self-censored, wisely so. Pictures are a must. Identities are not.

3:58 PM  
Blogger projgen said...

This one brought me out of lurkdom. I completely believe FEMA doesn't want people to see just how many people died as a result of Brownie's incompetence. However, I also completely agree with the media ban on photos. If I were missing a relative or friend, who had not yet checked in, every photo of a waterlogged corpse, *whether identifiable or not* would cause me untold amounts of anguish. And I'm speaking hypothetically. I can't imagine how the people who actually DO have missing family/friends would actually feel upon seeing gruesome images of bodies that could be their loved ones.

Allowing the media to photograph and then asking them not to publish would not work. Someone would leak a photo. Regardless of FEMA's actual reasons for this ban, the result is a compassionate one for the victims.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Moishe Q. Public said...

The pictures must be taken and must exist for history. This is the worst natural disaster to hit us and to partially document it would be an error. I agree there would be anguish among some, but for the greater good, it must be recorded. If not by newspaper photographers, then by someone.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

From a reporter looking into the press restrictions story ...

i've followed your postings about alleged censorship re katrina coverage ... however, other than the williams post & yesterday's FEMA "order" re dead photos, i can't find other instances of officials impeding reporters as they cover aftermath .... i just checked with NBC, CNN and Fox News, and they all say they haven't heard anything about authorities interfering with reporters' work .... have you any new evidence? i'm interested in writing about this topic, if i can find enough evidence that authorities may have attempted to curb journalists ....

Source: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2005_09_04.php#006459

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Bush: People died?

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is what they are spending their time worrying about? Why don't they spend more time worrying about the people still alive, on the verge of death? Or maybe that's what they don't want filmed? All the people dying now, from their neglect?

6:07 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

FEMA has a "bird in the hand and one in the Bush" ?

(sorry, couldn't resist)

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dead must be treated with dignity.they are not horror movie material.their families must not be traumitized any more than they already have.
This is typical of the racist liberals.

9:58 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

That's OK, Steg, I actually meant for it to be read that way. I guess I should have capitalized..

10:14 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

FWIW, Brian Williams on the Daily Show went on at length regarding how aggressive the various law enforcement personnel has been in keeping press away from everything, not just bodies. But the way he describes it, it doesn't sound like the result of a formal directive from FEMA, but rather a disjointed reaction by all of the different police and fire departments and national guard units that are basically occupying NO. It sounds like a big mess more than anything.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I don't think that there is going to be any sort of coverup here. Too many people, too many blogs and too much information is out there for that.

12:08 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

This isn't FEMA's decision to make. Let the photogrophers, their editors and the publishers decide what to do. Their customers will let them know if the right choice was made.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

I agree, not their call. The media has traditionally been cautious about this kind of material, and to be very blunt, bodies they find now are not going to be recognizable. Truly harrowing photos will not be making the cover of Newsweek.

The media needs to be permitted access. Right now the public has no reason to trust FEMA or their judgement. If this makes me a racist liberal, so be it.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Nachum said...

More than FEMA's objections, we should wonder about the news media's. They were quite willing to supress 9-11 images; agree or disagree, their motives were anything but pure (avoid "inflaming" us or some such nonsense). That they have ulterior motives for pushing to publicize these photos (or those EphShap mentioned) is clear.

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