White House: Ferguson no-fly didn't restrict press
WASHINGTON — The White House said Monday a no-fly zone the federal government imposed over Ferguson, Mo., for nearly two weeks in August should not have restricted helicopters for news organizations that wanted to operate in the area to cover violent protests there.
Audio recordings obtained by The Associated Press showed the Federal Aviation Administration working with local authorities to define a 37-square-mile flight restriction so that only police helicopters and commercial flights could fly through the area during demonstrations over the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The Obama administration's defense of its actions centered on a provision of obscure federal regulations intended to allow press flights as long as they meet certain conditions. White House spokesman Josh Earnest sidestepped questions about conversations on the tapes showing police working with the FAA to keep media away.
In Missouri, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar defended his department's involvement Monday, telling reporters that “at no time did we request that only media be kept out of the airspace.”
On the tapes, an FAA manager is heard assuring a St. Louis County Police Department official that the updated restrictions would allow planes to land at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport but, “It will still keep news people out. ... The only way people will get in there is if they give them permission in there anyway so ... it still keeps all of them out.”