After sustained pressure from FAIR activists (7/21/06, 7/25/06) and continued scrutiny from the Baton Rouge Advocate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it had reversed its policy that severely limited media access to Hurricane Katrina survivors living in FEMA trailer parks.
“We’re responding to your criticism,” FEMA representative James Stark told the Advocate (7/26/06). “You pointed out some very good points that we shouldn’t be trying to muzzle the press…. In no way will FEMA security nor FEMA public affairs stand in the way of media entering the trailer parks with valid credentials and interviewing whomever they like.”
Four days earlier, Stark had denied the existence of any FEMA policy restricting media access to the parks (Advocate, 7/22/06). The Advocate had previously reported (7/15/06) that FEMA security guards had prevented a reporter from speaking with trailer park residents, and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (4/24/06) likewise had an interview with a park resident halted by a security guard and told that a FEMA public relations officer needed to be present for interviews.
FAIR thanks FEMA for its reversal of policy. Thanks as well to all the activists who wrote in response to our alert.