Saturday, September 10, 2005

CNN legal action sends important signal to authorities

That was fast. After a temporary restraining order had been issued by a federal judge last night against the "zero access policy" on media coverage of the recovery effort, a hearing to decide whether to continue the injunction was set for this morning....instead of trying to fight the court order, the government quickly decided to drop their plan to ban media coverage, reported here .
Rather than fight a lawsuit by CNN, the federal government abandoned its effort Saturday to prevent the media from reporting on the recovery of the dead in New Orleans.

Joint Task Force "has no plans to bar, impede or prevent news media from their news gathering and reporting activities in connection with the deceased Hurricane Katrina victim recovery efforts," said Col. Christian E. deGraff, representing the task force.
Good for CNN for their challenge of this attempted restraint on media coverage. The increased military presence throughout appeared to be emboldening efforts to curtail reporting, as reported by Brian Williams for example (see Sept. 7th entry).

And good for the federal authorities in backing down immediately. They ultimately recognized that this ban effort was completlely inappropriate and would not withstand legal scrutiny.

Perhaps CNN's lawsuit will have an important effect in chastening all government actors involved in the aftermath from pursuing any further limitations on full, accessible coverage of the recovery and rebuilding efforts.