Wednesday, July 26, 2006

FEMA Bars Media From Trailer Park

Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation said Monday that FEMA’s policy restricting media access to residents living in FEMA-managed trailer parks is absurd, outrageous and denies park residents their rights as American citizens.

“FEMA just strikes you as a bureaucracy that’s out of control,” said U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner. “You don’t lose your fundamental rights just because you’re living in temporary housing. It’s an outrageous pattern of behavior.”

Jindal was referring to a July 15 article in which The Advocate detailed an incident in a Federal Emergency Management Agency-operated trailer park in Morgan City where a reporter and photographer were ordered off of the site.

The two had been invited into a trailer occupied by resident Dekotha Devall and her family. But during the interview a security guard ordered the reporter and photographer to leave.
The security guard called the police after the reporter attempted to give Devall a business card, an act the guard said was forbidden.

Later, the security guard told another resident, Pansy Ardeneaux, she was not allowed to speak to the media through a chain link fence surrounding the park and ordered Ardeneaux to return to her trailer.

When FEMA officials were told of the incident, they said the media has to be escorted at all times by FEMA representatives. “If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” said Rachel Rodi, a FEMA spokeswoman. “That’s just policy.”

Jindal said that policy is ridiculous. “How in the world can you stop someone in their home from talking to whomever they want?” Jindal asked. “It’s a freedom of speech issue; it’s a freedom of association issue.”

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