There is more than oil spreading in the Gulf of Mexico. There is also a veil of secrecy slowly being pulled upon the effects of the spill. In the pure tradition of “If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist”, more and more rules and regulations are being implemented in order to block photographers .
“According to a news release from the Unified Command, violation of the “safety zone” rules can result in a civil penalty of up to $40,000, and could be classified as a Class D felony. Because booms are often placed more than 40 feet on the outside of islands or marsh grasses, the 65-foot rule could make it difficult to photograph and document the impacts of oil on land and wildlife, media representatives said. ”
This rule, made by the Coast Guard, not BP, comes on top of an already existing rule that no media flights could go below 3,000 feet, due to restrictions from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Those restrictions are all to the honor of photography and it’s power. They are instituted out of fear of the impact that photography has on the collective mass. The same way as the Bush administration had banned any images of US soldiers coffin, or the Sri Lanka government had succesfully blocked any images of the war on the Tamils, this administration has no problem putting limits on what and how events can be photographed.
If you thought that the long awaited emergence of citizen photojournalism would come to the rescue, think again. Out of hundreds of images posted on Flickr, all are from GreenPeace or Nasa. None from the common man. As if the problem did not exist.
Photojournalists, more and more, are forced to break the law in order to get the right images. Not only their standard of living has plummeted, making it harder to be motivated, but they are now faced with either jail time or extremely steep fines. There is a war being waged against photojournalism at a time it is already at its weakest. If the forces of photo censorship succeed, our world will become we can forget about democracy. We might not understand it fully, but these are our eyes that they are trying to cover. It is a our ability to make a sound judgment that is threatened forever.
If photojournalists around the world are being blocked from taking pictures it’s because they are annoying. They are revealing aspects of our lives that others do not want you to see. They pull the curtains and denounce. If they are more and more being denied access, it’s because their images can do a lot of damages to an otherwise well kept lie.
There should be thousands and millions of images of the BP oil spill in the Gulf. Every American should go and take pictures of the situation. Post them all on Flickr or other places for everyone to see. A giant visual against BP, against blocking photographers and finally against a way of life that is killing us all.
No one should be allowed, ever, to restrict the work of photojournalists. There should be a fine for people preventing photojournalists to do their work and their safety and well being should be guaranteed by law. They should have the same rights, and protection, as any other civil servant of any well balanced democracy. Instead of being restricted, they should be given extended special privileged access to news events.
They say the tree that falls in the forest where no one hears it makes no noise. Could we say the same about events happening away from cameras? soon?