06/07/2010 03:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Oil Spill Media Access: Government Wants Press Freedom, Pushes BP To Not Restrict Access

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal government generally is not restricting news media access to oil spill disaster areas in the Gulf of Mexico and wants oil giant BP to do likewise, unless there are good security or safety reasons, a Coast Guard admiral said Monday.

Thad Allen, who is overseeing the federal response to the Gulf oil spill, said that "general guidance" had been issued that there were only two reasons why the media should be prohibited from an area: "If it's a security reason or a safety reason because of personal protective equipment."

"Other than that, we are putting no restrictions on access," Allen told a White House news briefing.

He was asked about complaints about instances in which journalists were being denied access to disaster sites.

"Now, we can't tell somebody to talk to somebody they don't want to. But my policy is, unless it's a security or safety reason, there is no restriction on access," Allen said.

Asked what he would do if a journalist wanted to take a picture of an oil-coated bird and was barred from doing so, Allen said that was "hypothetical."

"I guess somebody would have to give me the specifics of an incident and we'll go take a look at it," he said.

But in general, he said, "we'll follow up...I'll have a call with Tony Hayward," the London-based oil company's CEO.