Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri requested the federal government to make the airspace around the city, covering an area of 37 square miles, a no-fly zone in an attempt to prevent media helicopters from covering violent protests.
Back in August, the Federal Aviation Administration agreed to the request by the city's police to make the airspace around Ferguson a no-fly zone for a period lasting 12 days, stating that it was a safety precaution because of the demonstrations being staged after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
However, recorded telephone conversations between officials reveal that the true reason for the establishment of the no-fly zone was to prevent news helicopters from entering the city.
"They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out," said one FAA manager regarding the St. Louis County Police.
"But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on."
Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator, responded to the reports, stating that the agency always prioritizes safety in such situations.
According to Huerta, the FAA can and will not ban media from the coverage of any event, and that media companies were not banned from covering the events that were going on in Ferguson during the protests.
"To the best of our knowledge, during the 11 day period flight restrictions of varying levels were in place, no media outlets objected to any of the restrictions," Huerta added.
On the morning of Aug. 12, which was the first day of the implementation of the FAA's flight restriction in Ferguson, air traffic managers were struggling for the redefinition of the no-fly zone to be able to allow commercial flights operating from the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to pass through the city, along with police helicopters.
All other aerial vehicles were banned from doing so.
A manager at the Kansas City center of the FAA said that police did not mind for commercial airplanes to fly though the city, and they only wanted media to be kept out.
The contents of the recorded conversations are opposite to what is being claimed by the police that there is no truth that flight restriction was implemented only to stop the media from taking footage of the violent demonstration going on in the city, along with the response of the authorities to the incidents.
Police have said that the flight restriction was requested due to an incident of a police helicopter being fired shots at. However, officials were not able to provide a report regarding the incident.
According to American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Lee Rowland, if the content of the recordings are true, then it is a very disturbing and gross violation of the First Amendment rights of the press.