Ferguson No-Fly Zone Was to Keep Media Out

Recordings reveal police motives for FAA request
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2014 1:32 AM CST
Ferguson No-Fly Zone Was to Keep Media Out
In this Aug. 18, 2014, photo, people stand near a cloud of tear gas in Ferguson, Mo., during protests over the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

As protests erupted in Ferguson, Mo., this summer, police sought a no-fly zone over the area for "safety"—but later admitted it was to keep the media out. Federal Aviation Administration officials agreed to impose flight restrictions on more than 37 square miles of airspace, but they tried to find a way to allow police helicopters and commercial traffic in while keeping news helicopters out, according to recordings obtained by the AP, which notes that the recordings raise serious questions about whether "police were trying to suppress aerial images of the demonstrations and the police response by violating the constitutional rights of journalists with tacit assistance by federal officials."

In one recording, a Kansas City FAA manager says police didn't care if commercial traffic went through the restricted area all day long, they just "didn't want media in there." Police claimed they asked for restrictions after a police helicopter was shot, but an FAA manager described that as "rumors," and there's no police report on the alleged shooting. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta tells the Los Angeles Times that the agency "cannot and will never exclusively ban media from covering an event of national significance" and the media was never banned from covering events in Ferguson. On the recordings, however, FAA officials speak of the restrictions that were put in place effectively keeping the press out because "they don't understand the difference." (More Ferguson, Missouri stories.)

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