A short update to a post from earlier in the week about the case of Lance Rosenfield, a freelance photographer detained in Texas by police, a BP security officer and the city’s police department liaison to the Joint Terrorism Task force.
Rosenfield had been taking photographs of a sign outside BP refinery in Texas City for non-profit news organisation ProPublica and had remained on a public right of way.
Texas newspaper the Daily News has posted three dashboard-camera videos of the exchange between the police and Rosenfield. The News also details the laws under which Rosenfield was asked to reveal his images to police and give his name, phone number and social security number.
The audio in these videos is poor due to wind, but they show a relatively relaxed situation in which police try to determine that Rosenfield has no suspicious motive for photographing an oil refinery.
Police in England have come in for a fair amount of criticism recently for their treatment of photographers (see here and here), but their US counterparts have received some attention too after detaining freelance photographer Lance Rosenfield, who was working for ProPublica at the time.
Rosenfield was driving away after taking photos of a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas when he was followed by a BP employee, blocked off by two police cars and detained. Rosenfield had remained in a public space outside the refinery while working. The police reviewed his pictures and recorded his date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. According to Rosenfield these details were then shared with BP.
Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, said:
“We certainly appreciate the need to secure the nation’s refineries. But we’re deeply troubled by BP’s conduct here, especially when they knew we were working on deadline on critical stories about this very facility. And we see no reason why, if law enforcement needed to review the unpublished photographs, that should have included sharing them with a representative of a private company.”
Interesting footage from Louisiana TV station WDSU-TV showing its reporter arguing the toss with BP security guards attempting to stop him from interviewing clean-up workers on a local beach affected by the oil spill.
The station’s reporter is particularly interested in testing out a recent memo to the media from BP’s chief operating office Doug Suttles, that says “BP has not and will not prevent anyone working in the clean-up operation from sharing his or her own experiences or opinions.”
Rich Matthews, a videojournalist with Associated Press, decided to report from the Gulf of Mexico’s oil-slicked waters. Not content with looking overboard, he went diving, intending first to go 60 feet but having to cut this back to 20 feet due to the lack of visibility.
I jump off the boat into the thickest, reddest patch of oil I’ve ever seen (…) I open my eyes and realise my mask is already smeared. I can’t see anything and we’re just five seconds into the dive.
More than a month into the disaster, a host of anecdotal evidence is emerging from reporters, photographers, and TV crews in which BP and Coast Guard officials explicitly target members of the media, restricting and denying them access to oil-covered beaches, staging areas for clean-up efforts, and even flyovers.
Journalists from CBS, Mother Jones and the Times Picayune have been denied access to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to reports, raising concerns that the disaster will not be properly documented for the public.