Taking photographs of failed oil booms — which trap oil in coastal waterways, or simply float ineffectively — could be a class D felony and result in a $40,000 fine, according to Georgianne Nienaber’s reading of this Deepwater Horizon Unified Command release. Meant to “protect members of the response effort, the installation and maintenance of oil containment boom, the operation of response equipment and protection of the environment,” a 20-meter safety zone is being established around all protective boom everywhere in Southeast Louisiana.
Permission to enter the safety zone must be granted by Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans, a solution, says the investigative journalist and author, that is unworkable. In response to a comment on her blog post, she writes, getting access with Coast Guard supervision “requires ’embedding,’ something most investigative reporters will refuse to do. We need freedom of access and not a chaperone.” While no one has yet been arrested or even threatened with arrest in connection with the safety zone, Nienaber reports that journalists and photojournalists currently working on the coast feel as she does now: “Working and reporting from the American Gulf Coast is starting to remind me of working in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where photos and recordings must be hidden on secreted flash drives at border crossings.”