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FEMA muzzling La. trailer-park residents
By The Associated Press
MORGAN CITY, La. — Residents of trailer parks set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house hurricane victims in Louisiana aren't allowed to talk to the press without an official escort, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate reported.In one instance, a security guard ordered an Advocate reporter out of a trailer during an interview in Morgan City. Similar FEMA rules were enforced in Davant, in Plaquemines Parish.
FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Rodi wouldn't say whether the
security guards' actions complied with FEMA policy, saying the matter was being reviewed. But she confirmed that FEMA does not allow the news media to speak alone to residents in their trailers.
"If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview," Rodi told the newspaper for its July 15 report. "That's just a policy."Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said FEMA's refusal to allow trailer-park residents to invite news media into their homes unescorted was unconstitutional.
Morgan City Mayor Timothy Matte told The Advocate that he was surprised residents were being barred from talking to reporters.
"I would think anyone who lives there would be allowed to have any visitor they wanted," he said.
FEMA leases the land for the trailer park from the city, Matte said. "It's public property. There's no question about that. You would think the people would have the same freedom there as everyone else has," he told the newspaper.
FEMA keeps an eye on speech, not crime
Huricane survivors stuck in federal trailer parks must have big daddy FEMA present when talking to reporters.
Many Gulf Coast residents displaced by last year's hurricanes still live in trailer parks set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA charges them high rent, though: It costs them their constitutional rights to have a roof over their heads.
Reporters from The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate recently visited a nearby trailer park to speak with residents. To their surprise, FEMA officials insisted on being present for the interviews.
A FEMA spokeswoman told the Associated Press that department policy is not to allow residents to speak with news reporters alone. Americans displaced by hurricanes may not invite certain people into their homes because the government says so.
I thought, rather naively, I could simply stroll the grounds of Renaissance Village, talk to the residents, maybe take some pictures and generally get a feel for how the residents were faring as they prepared for their first Christmas away from home, family and friends.
But the Federal Emergency Management Agency carefully manages and monitors information coming out of the Groom Road trailer park. Not even local law enforcement officials can get all the information they believe they need to ensure the public safety.
The first hint things weren’t going to be easy came from an old salt at The Advocate who told me FEMA assigns handlers to reporters, at least they did whenever the newspaper covered a staged visit by a dignitary looking for a photo op.
“You are not allowed to be here,” the guard yelled. “Get out right now.”
As they left, the guard refused to let the reporter give Devall a business card so she could contact the newspaper later by phone.
“You will not give her a business card,” the guard said. “She’s not allowed to have that.”
Originally posted by WyrdeOne
I think there is something SERIOUSLY WRONG going on right underneath our noses in the aftermath of Katrina. Lemme say it again...
I think there is something SERIOUSLY WRONG going on, right underneath our noses in the aftermath of Katrina.
This is not the sort of situation that should just be shrugged off. This is serious, I think.
Am I overreacting, or what? I don't think so...
Originally posted by Patronas
I think the media will get into serious trouble if they report it as big news.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is ending a policy that restricted news-media access to its trailer parks.
The Advocate has published two stories and an editorial about the FEMA policy.
"You pointed out some very good points that we shouldn't be trying to muzzle the press," Stark said.