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St. Louis county police instituted a no-fly zone over the Ferguson protests solely to prevent news helicopters from covering the events, recorded conversations obtained by the AP reveal.
At the time, the police department claimed the no-fly zone was necessary because shots had been fired at a police helicopter—and not, as Sgt. Brian Schellman told reporters at the time, because the police wanted the media to leave. "We understand that that's the perception that's out there, but it truly is for the safety of pilots," he told NBC.
According to the AP, the tapes reveal St. Louis police officers worked with FAA air traffic controllers to tweak the flight restrictions to ground media aircraft while still allowing commercial flights and police helicopters to operate in the area.
Media outlets were reportedly told there was an outright ban, despite exceptions for "aircraft carrying properly accredited news representatives."
"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.
FAA administrator Michael Huerta denied the allegations, telling the AP, "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."
[image via AP]
via Gawker http://bit.ly/1DNFGD2