US State and Federal Governments Physically Block Journalists from Observing State Violence

Sandy English reports on the US state and federal collusion to censor free speech during the authoritarian crackdown on protests over the police killing of Michael Brown:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked closely with the St. Louis County Police Department (SLCPD) to restrict news media helicopters from flying above Ferguson, Missouri, during protests against the killing of Michael Brown.
  • According to phone recordings obtained by the Associated Press (AP) this week, representatives of the SLCPD clearly stated that their concern in a request to the FAA to ban air traffic around Ferguson was to restrict media coverage of the protests. The FAA obliged, and for 12 days in August, news helicopters in a 37-square-mile area around Ferguson were prohibited, although police helicopters and commercial air traffic were permitted.
  • “They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out,” observed one FAA manager about the request by police in one of the recordings. At another point, one FAA official said that the police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR [temporary flight restriction] all day long. They didn’t want media in there.”
  • Initially, the police had requested that all air traffic be banned from Ferguson. FAA officials, however, persuaded them to modify conditions of the no-fly zone request. According to the telephone recordings, a Kansas City FAA official told the police that a rewording of the order “will still keep news people out…. The only way people will get in there is if they give them permission in there anyway so…it still keeps all of them out.”
  • As a recent Amnesty International report on human rights violations in Ferguson observes, “From August 13 through October 2, at least 19 journalists and members of the media were arrested by law enforcement, with others subjected to tear gas and the use of rubber bullets…. Reporters for CNN, Al Jazeera America and other outlets report being harassed or physically threatened.”
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