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Galveston mayor bans city staff from giving media interviews about Hurricane Ike; journalist expelled from refugee camp

(RSF/IFEX) - Mayor of Galveston, Texas, Lyda Ann Thomas, on 15 September 2008, banned city council staff from giving media interviews about the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Ike, "The Galveston County Daily News" reported. The hurricane struck the city with full force on 13 September, leaving five dead and forcing the evacuation to shelters of 2,500 others. The mayor specified that the ban also applied to police chiefs and fire-fighters.

The same day, Sara Foley, a journalist with "The Galveston County Daily News", was expelled from a camp for evacuees in Austin. Because of her dual status as both journalist and refugee, she was the sole media employee allowed to stay in the camp, but the Red Cross and the police ended up asking her to leave. She reported witnessing the frustration of the evacuees who had not received enough supplies.

Reporters Without Borders said it was baffled by the censorship. "Lyda Ann Thomas cannot hope to hide the effects of Ike on her city. Her hostility to all media presence cannot have any other likely explanation than the fear of the Galveston authorities of not being able to cope with the rescue and reconstruction operation," the organisation said.

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