Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Is BP Blocking Media Coverage of Oil Slick Disaster?

Grand Isle, La. -- Private security guards patrolling an oil-stained portion of Grand Isle attempted repeatedly to prevent a WDSU news crew from walking on a public beach and speaking with cleanup workers -- a confrontation that followed a BP corporate promise not to interfere in such a manner.
It was the second day in a row WDSU News anchor Scott Walker was approached by hired security in the area.

On Friday, he told the guards he intended to ask contracted clean-up crews about their efforts while workers were on their breaks. The guards told Walker he could not question the workers and was not allowed on the public beach.

Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies eventually intervened and Walker asked a group of workers if they wanted to talk. The guards followed Walker to a tent where the workers had gathered and told them they didn't have to speak if they didn't want to.

The workers declined to discuss their efforts.

On Wednesday, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles issued a memorandum titled "Clarification of Media Access."

It reads, in part:
Recent media reports have suggested that individuals involved in the cleanup operation have been prohibited from speaking to the media, and this is simply untrue. BP fully supports and defends all individuals rights to share their personal thoughts and experiences with journalists if they so choose.

BP has not and will not prevent anyone working in the cleanup operation from sharing his or her own experiences or opinions.

The memo was distributed to on-site supervisors and contained directives to "ensure this message is communicated to your leadership team, all cleanup workers (and) volunteers."
Walker cited the letter in his conversation with the guards. One suggested it did not exist. 

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