September 9, 2005
To: CNN Staff
From: Jim Walton
In response to official statements earlier today that news media would be excluded from covering the victim recovery process in New Orleans and surrounding areas on the suggestion that what is reported may offend viewers’ or victims’ sensibilities, CNN has filed a lawsuit in federal court to prohibit any agency from restricting its ability to fully and fairly cover this story.
As seen most recently from war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, from tsunami-ravaged South Asia and from Hurricane Katrina’s landfall along the Gulf, CNN has shown that it is capable of balancing vigorous reporting with respect for private concerns. Government officials cannot be allowed to hinder the free flow of information to the public, and CNN will not let such a decision stand withouT challenge.
CNN said a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday heading off a federal ban on showing photos of people left dead by Hurricane Katrina.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency this week asked news agencies to refrain from airing or publishing photos of dead bodies, and excluded media from some recovery missions in New Orleans.
"The recovery of victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect and we have requested that no photographs of the deceased by made by the media," said FEMA in a statement.
CNN announced the suit Friday afternoon, saying that prohibition of airing the pictures would prevent full and fair coverage of the story.
"The government cannot be allowed to hinder the free flow of information," said CNN journalist Anderson Cooper. "That's what we say in the lawsuit."
CNN talk show host Larry King announced late Friday a federal judge in Texas issued the restraining order and scheduled a hearing for Saturday to hear arguments in the suit.