I was asking this very question about the oil spill. After the Exxon Valdez disaster, you saw endless pictures of dead birds and marine life. But with the BP oil spill, we've hardly seen any such pictures. In fact, with my little oil spill photo series, I've been shocked at the paucity of images to choose from. Now we know why. Since BP is in charge of the clean up, they also have the power to control access to public beaches in Louisiana. And they are not granting access to the media.
A CBS News crew was threatened with arrest when it tried to photograph the spill, and a BP representative in Louisiana told a Mother Jones reporter that she couldn’t visit the Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge without a BP escort.
On Monday, journalists from the New York Daily News were also “escorted away from a public beach on Elmer’s Island bycops who said they were taking orders from BP.” However, they managed to get a covert tour of the Queen Bess barrier island from a BP contractor who is fed up with the oil company’s attempt to cover up the disaster:
“There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It’s important to me that people know the truth about what’s going on here,” the contractor said.
“The things I’ve seen: They just aren’t right. All the life out here is just full of oil. I’m going to show you what BP never showed the President.” [...]
The grasses by the shore were littered with tarred marine life, some dead and others struggling under a thick coating of crude.
“When you see some of the things I’ve seen, it would make you sick,” the contractor said. “No living creature should endure that kind of suffering.”
“BP is going to say the deaths of these animals wasn’t oil-related,” the contractor added. “We know the truth. I hope these pictures get to the right people — to someone who can do something.”
I guess BP is taking the Bush Administration's lead on media access. If the American people didn't see dead soldiers coming back from Iraq, everything must be going OK, right? Same here. If BP can avoid images of dead dolphins, they may think their public image won't take the long-term hit that Exxon did after 1989. But it's wrong and I don't see why the government is allowing BP to control media access.