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.