In Gulf Spill Area, Reporters Face Security Hurdles : NPR
In early July, the freelance photographer Lance Rosenfield was standing on a public street in the town of Texas City, Texas, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. He was taking shots of street signs and of a nearby BP oil refinery — one of the largest in the country.
A few minutes later, as he filled his car's tank at a gas station, Rosenfield found himself penned in by police cars. A BP security guard was close behind. And, beckoned by his colleagues, a local police official assigned to an FBI task force arrived as well. They asked Rosenfield about the story he was working on. Over the next 20 minutes or so, the photographer gave his name, address, driver's license and Social Security number — and was convinced — or pressured, take your pick — to show his photographs. All of the material was shared with the BP security guard.
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"This is in no way, in any newsroom in the United States, considered acceptable behavior," said Steve Engelberg, managing editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative news site Pro Publica. The site had hired Rosenfield for a project conducted with the PBS documentary series Frontline to report on toxic pollution from the refinery.
"You are not allowed, as a police officer, to rummage through the notebooks and photographs — not published — of newspapers," Engelberg said. "That's not how we do it in this country."
And yet related complaints have been heard throughout the Gulf Coast in the months since the oil spill. Back in May, CBS's Kelly Cobiella told viewers that when she and a film crew tried to take footage of a beach in South Pass, La., "a boat of BP contractors, with two Coast Guard officers on board, told us to turn around — under threat of arrest."