Trying to report on that oil spill (that's technically not oil, for tax reasons) that has devastated a small Arkansas community? Well, you're going to have to go through ExxonMobil before taking a good look at the area, and they're not being too keen on allowing reporters onto the site.
Local media in Mayflower have been hampered in their reporting by a pliant county sheriff's office who has been taking orders from ExxonMobil about who can enter the site of the spill. A no-fly zone was set up by the FAA after ExxonMobil requested it, and now news organizations must ask for the oil giants' permission before flying over the site.
On top of those restrictions, on Wednesday, a group of reporters were given permission to escort Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on a tour of the spill site. Their tour, however, was cut short. Local reporter Michael Hibblen told Mother Jones that after being lead to holding area,
It was less than 90 seconds before suddenly the sheriff's deputies started yelling that all the media people had to leave, that ExxonMobil had decided they don't want you here, you have to leave. They even referred to it as "Exxon Media"…Some reporters were like, "Who made this decision? Who can we talk to?" The sheriff's deputies started saying, "You have to leave. You have 10 seconds to leave or you will be arrested."
A reporter for InsideClimate News was also threatened with arrest on Wednesday after she entered the clean-up command center and inquired about finding representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation. After walking up to a desk labeled "public affairs," and given contact information of an EPA spokesperson, an ExxonMobil employee spotted the journalist and told her to leave, warning that if she didn't, she would be fired.
Unfortunately for ExxonMobil, journalists have already caught a whiff of yet another toxic spill, this time in Louisiana.