In response to numerous media reports that BP has been blocking journalists from covering the oil spill and speaking with clean-up workers, BP CEO Doug Suttles issued a letter on Wednesday saying that such reports were “untrue” and reporters should have full access:
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.
However, this message isn’t being strictly enforced. Yesterday, WDSU, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans, tried to speak with clean-up crews on an oil-stained portion of Grand Isle, Louisiana. Private security officials confronted reporter Scott Walker and said he couldn’t even have access to the public beach. From the exchange:
OFFICIAL 1: Every single security guard here has given the instructions to every single news crew that you can be outside of 100 yards of the workers or along the boom.
WALKER: And who’s saying that? Because no one can tell me that, unless you’re the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, you’re the Coast Guard, or you’re the military, can you tell me where to go on this public beach.
OFFICIAL 1: I can tell you where to go because I’m employed to keep this beach safe. And right now, those are my instructions. I’d like to keep the workers safe as well.
WALKER: I’m going to try to talk to the worker under the tent. Can I do that?
OFFICIAL 1: No, no.
WALKER: He’s on break.
OFFICIAL 1: You are not allowed to interview any workers.
WALKER: The workers can talk to the media, according to the BP CEO two days ago. Still hasn’t trickled down to you all?
OFFICIAL 2: We already heard that one too.
WALKER: What do you mean you’ve “heard that one”? It’s true.
OFFICIAL 1: The e-mail did not explicitly give you permission to do that.
Watch the confrontation:
Walker was eventually able to go over to the tent after an intervention from an official in the sheriff’s office, but none of the workers would talk to him, since the security official was telling them that they didn’t have to say anything.