As both a journalist who occasionally freelances for the mainstream media, and an Occupier, I find myself in a conflicted position regarding reporting on Occupy LA.
My personal affinity towards the movement means that I am loathe to write about it in the mainstream media with any kind of objectivity.
The flipside of this, is that rarely is the mainstream media itself impartial or unbiased, as a recent article by Naomi Wolf, entitled The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy, highlighted. Compromised by corporations, politics and money, the media's agenda is rarely as simple as reporting the truth. Despite this, media presence is still required and necessary for accurate reporting, particularly over something as contentious as Occupy, which has been at the receiving end of widespread police brutality and violence over the last few months.
So should we be surprised, then, by the tweets sent out by the LAPD yesterday announcing a media pool for Occupy LA?
#LAPD meeting to do lottery to select "pool media" for future #OccupyLA activity. Interested media in pool must have rep attend mtg @ 7:15pm
RT @DavidBegnaud: #LAPD media relations to hold news conference at 7:15pm tonight @LAPDHQ regarding #occupyla #ktla
The repercussions of this are tremendous: only a limited number of pre-agreed media endorsed by LAPD are allowed on Solidarity Park (formerly known as City Hall) property to report on Occupy LA and their battles with the LAPD and City Council's attempts to evict the group. I immediately emailed a member of the press who was in this meeting representing a MSM publication (she asked that she remain anonymous), and received this response:
They were only going to let in one media outlet for each medium (print, tv and radio) but we convinced them to let in three....the only media eligible for pool were those who were on the LAPD press release list and able to get to headquarters with an hours notice. So very few were represented at the meeting. I asked about independent radio/blogs and they said that only media with LAPD-issued badges would be allowed in the vicinity. I asked about those already at the camp and they said after the unlawful assembly order everyone who doesn't leave will be arrested, even those who are journalists. Our attorney was looking into whether there were legal challenges to be made.
California Penal Code Section 409.5 clearly states reasons that the LAPD and other agencies may close areas from the press -- due to public health concerns, riots, civil disturbances or calamities (earthquakes, fires, floods, etc) -- but -- Section D of 409.5 states:
(D) NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL PREVENT A DULY AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE OF ANY NEWS SERVICE, NEWSPAPER, RADIO OR TELEVISION STATION OR NETWORK FROM ENTERING THE AREAS CLOSED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION.
Once again, a clear violation of First Amendment Rights is occurring over the Occupy movement. The banning of MSM from the scene of Occupy LA during its eviction severely inhibits the press from reporting fairly and accurately, as well as protecting Occupiers from police abuses, which are frequently deterred by the presence of the media. On Sunday night, on the street, one of the chants heard most frequently during tense moments with LAPD was "The Whole World is Watching".
The whole world isn't watching. Only those MSM outlets that LAPD has chosen to filter out information, will allow you to watch our eviction.
That doesn't sound like Freedom of the Press, nor anything like The First Amendment, to me.