In response to criticism of its ban on media and public access within 20 meters of the oil spill boom safety zones, the Coast Guard has announced new rules recognizing the First Amendment rights of reporters. These new guidelines provide a means for media representatives to obtain credentials to access the oil spill zone while recognizing the need for public safety.
"This change is needed to ensure public access to information about this catastrophe," said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. The people of this country rely on independent reporters to tell the rest of us what is happening, and these changes will go a long way towards providing the information we all need about this disaster and the response to it."
The new rules require media representatives to obtain credentials by providing their name, media affiliation, and contact information. While this should allow every representative of the media to be credentialed, the ACLU cautions those issuing the documentation to respect independent reporters, and those working for media outlets that may not be well-known. "Famous reporters, or those working for large media companies, should not have preferential treatment," said Esman. "We trust that anyone working as a reporter, in any medium and for any outlet, will have the same access, so that as many people as possible will be able to get the information they need and are entitled to have."