Getty photojournalist John Moore took to Twitter to sound the alarm on the Biden administration's decision to bar media outlets from reporting on conditions in Border Patrol facilities. According to Moore, there is "no modern precedent for a full physical ban" on allowing reporters into facilities.
Moore – who has photographed Border Patrol facilities under Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump – shared a lengthy Twitter thread about his experience. He included a few images he was able to capture utilizing long lenses.
I respectfully ask US Customs and Border Protection to stop blocking media access to their border operations. I have photographed CBP under Bush, Obama and Trump but now - zero access is granted to media. These long lens images taken from the Mexican side. @CBP #gettyimagesnews pic.twitter.com/cWa90TlfeS— John Moore (@jbmoorephoto) March 19, 2021
There’s no modern precedent for a full physical ban on media access to CBP border operations. To those who might say, cut them some slack - they are dealing with a situation, I’d say that showing the US response to the current immigrant surge is exactly the media’s role.— John Moore (@jbmoorephoto) March 19, 2021
Photographing Border Patrol agents and immigrant encounters can and has been done respectfully without interfering with operations. Regardless, @cbp public affairs exists to work with media.— John Moore (@jbmoorephoto) March 19, 2021
Border Patrol agents have been instructed to turn away reporters, citing the coronavirus pandemic. As Moore pointed out, this is "not a valid excuse" to prevent the media from capturing operations that take place outdoors.
And Pandemic restrictions are not a valid excuse to block physical media access, especially to operations that are outside. There are easy alternative options to media ride-alongs. @cbp— John Moore (@jbmoorephoto) March 19, 2021
Showing the difficult and important work of @cbp agents in the field, while also photographing immigrants in a dignified way are not mutually exclusive endeavors. Transparency is key, even in a politicized environment. @DHSgov— John Moore (@jbmoorephoto) March 19, 2021
The most concerning thing about the photojournalist's experience, however, is that he had to go to Mexico in order to capture the images he was able to get with his telephoto lens.
The photographs in this tweet string were taken with a telephoto lens from across the border in Mexico. Until now, US photojournalists haven’t needed to stand in another country to photograph what’s happening - in the United States.— John Moore (@jbmoorephoto) March 20, 2021
Moore recounted instances where Border Patrol has forced reporters to leave areas where illegal aliens cross the Rio Grand River, an area the federal government controls.
The vast majority of river crossings by asylum seekers happen on federal land in south Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. The federal govt. controls access to those areas. The Border Patrol has been removing journalists who enter, including recently myself, CBS, others. @cbsmireya— John Moore (@jbmoorephoto) March 20, 2021
CBS News reporter Suvro Banerji shared a similar experience.
We experienced the same problem while filming a CBP holding/staging facility near Mission, TX in Rio Grande Valley. Border Patrol agents approached us almost immediately.. telling us we cannot shoot any of their operations from a nearby levee, and asked us to leave. https://t.co/IDsud0nebS— Suvro Banerji (@suvCBS) March 19, 2021
The job of the press is to act as a government watchdog. The media can't act as a watchdog if they aren't allowed into facilities and operations. What's even more concerning, however, is DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said they plan to release footage of Border Patrol facilities. This means the administration can pick and choose what the American people see. It's a way for them to downplay the crisis that's taking place. If cameras and reporters aren't allowed into the facilities, they can tell the American people whatever they believe we want to hear.
Media blackouts are what you see in places like China and Russia, not the United States. It's important for the media and the government to remain separate. It ensures the administration receives scrutiny when needed.