Ferguson, Mo. has been under intense media scrutiny since the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael “Mike” Brown. Protesters and supporters alike were angered by a “no-flyover zone”rule that was issued, and now police have admitted it was issued to keep media out.
In tapes obtained by the Associated Press, the Federal Aviation Administration honored a request by the St. Louis County Police Department to ban flight in the airspace over Ferguson and its surrounding regions. Although it was suspected as a plan to freeze out media then, authorities claimed the no-fly zone was placed in effect after someone allegedly shot at a police helicopter.
The AP writes:
“They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out,” said one FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police in a series of recorded telephone conversations obtained by The Associated Press. “But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.
At another point, a manager at the FAA’s Kansas City center said police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn’t want media in there.”
FAA procedures for defining a no-fly area did not have an option that would accommodate that.
“There is really … no option for a TFR that says, you know, ‘OK, everybody but the media is OK,'” he said. The managers then worked out wording they felt would keep news helicopters out of the controlled zone but not impede other air traffic.
This stunning revelation was denied by FAA administrator Michael Huerta, saying in a statement, “”FAA cannot and will never exclusively ban media from covering an event of national significance, and media was never banned from covering the ongoing events in Ferguson in this case.”
If news helicopters been allowed to record the activity on the ground, it would have given the nation clear access to one of the most explosive moments of civil unrest and police force in some time.
What makes this case even more curious that a FAA official at the Kansas City command center questioned the validity of the St. Louis County police request, noting it was a possible underhanded tactic.
Photo: Loavesofbread/CC BY-SA 4.0