It is during crises, like Exxon Mobil‘s Mayflower oil spill disaster, that press freedom matters most and we can really judge whether the media are doing their job. As critics have pointed out from the beginning, many media outlets have effectively let Exxon dictate their coverage. As Arkansas Blog now reports, Little Rock TV stations have gone a step further in their submission to the corporate giant: Under pressure from Exxon, Arkansas ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliates have declined to air a paid advertisement (view on youtube) critical of Exxon. Exxon – get this – has threatened legal action against the stations. Exxon executives, who should probably be on trial for criminal negligence, are dictating what can and cannot be said in public about them in Arkansas. That is the extent of press freedom and freedom of speech in this state.
“Amidst reports of media intimidation at the site of the Mayflower, Arkansas tar sands oil spill, ExxonMobil has now taken to bullying local Little Rock television stations into canceling the airing of a satirical but cutting advertisement critical of their business practices… The move by Exxon marks the latest in a series of reported strong-arm tactics undertaken by Exxon to censor reporting in the days following the Mayflower tar sands oil spill.” (Statement from the ad organizers)