Published February 27, 2017
PART 7 OF 9
Who is a Real Journalist?
This is part seven of a nine part series will illuminating the FAA’s complacency and the role the FAA’s concession played in the violence against Water Protectors.
The FAA has given itself the extraordinary authority to determine who is a legitimate journalist. The FAA stated they would give waivers to the TFR to journalists who meet their requirements.
In an FAA statement on the TFR and concerns that journalists would be suppressed the FAA issued a statement the, “The TFR includes provisions for media to operate aircraft – both traditional and unmanned – inside the TFR, provided that operators comply with the language of the Notice to Airmen. In the case of unmanned aircraft, operators must also comply with the requirements of Part 107 and coordinate beforehand with the FAA. We’ve had no requests from media who meet those requirements.”
Journalist Rob Levine of crooksandliars.com attempted to get a waiver. He called the Washington FAA office and was referred to the Fargo Flight Standards Office. The Fargo Flight Standards Office referred him to the North Dakota Tactical Office, the collection of law enforcement and national guard officials who are tasked with overseeing the Water Protectors and whose behavior has been documented by drone pilots.
The agency which journalists are attempting to monitor using drones is the agency deciding which journalists are legitimate journalists deserving of a waiver and which are not.
Levine was denied a waiver. The spokesperson for the Morton County Sheriff’s Office replied to his request to justify the denial. His request was denied on the grounds that he was not a law enforcement official or supporter.
Eventually Levine was granted a waiver for a half a mile radius during daylight hours for two days and only in eyesight.
Drone journalists have documented the night work of DAPL employees flying far from eyesight at night. Flying out of eyesight allows the drones to see the activities of police in their fortifications and of DAPL workers at their jobs. The restrictions are meant to hinder substantial, vital news gathering.
In the case of Standing Rock, where accusations of mass law enforcement brutality are being lobbed and violent conflicts between law enforcement and Water Protectors are happening, the federal government has suppressed drone journalist coverage to only what the local law enforcement officials wish the journalists to cover. Moreover, the federal government has given local law enforcement the authority to determine which journalist should have that privilege.
The United States Constitution’s First Amendment which assures free press has no provision to allow any federal agency to determine who is a legitimate journalist, let alone assign itself that authority. It does not give federal agencies the authority to give county governments or any other government the right to determine who is a legitimate journalist.
LaRae Meadows is a freelance writer, who has been embedded at Standing Rock.
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