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Reporters covering Freemen standoff ordered out of area

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Reporters covering Freemen standoff ordered out of area06/17/96 MONTANA--Journalists covering the two-month-old siege of the "Freemen" compound in Montana were…

Reporters covering Freemen standoff ordered out of area

06/17/96

MONTANA–Journalists covering the two-month-old siege of the “Freemen” compound in Montana were ordered to leave the bluff overlooking the area in late May after the FBI obtained a federal court order giving the agency authority to control access to the area. FBI officials approached journalists on their hillside vantage point and handed them a notice explaining the order and a map outlining the two mile restricted area.

Federal District Court Judge James Burns of Portland issued the order “upon the need to ensure the safety of law enforcement officers [and] … the community and the need to prevent attempts by third parties to assist and aid the fugitives in their attempts to avoid … the warrants issued by this court.”

The order came after a Fox television crew arranged interviews with two Freemen who were standing at a fence half a mile from the compound. The FBI would not allow the journalists to return for the interviews, saying that it would be too dangerous.

The order was issued as a safety measure, according to a government press release, and not because there were any immediate plans to take action against the Freemen. The Associated Press quoted an unnamed senior government official who said the FBI has its own strategy for talking with the Freemen and doesn’t want it disrupted by members of the media.

The television networks elected not to challenge the order, and some moved to areas as far as three miles away from the compound. The hill overlooking the standoff was less than a mile from the compound.

The Freemen issued their own press release urging the media to fight the order and stand up for their right to remain close to the compound. (In re: Several Parcels of Real Property in Garfield County Montana and Eleven Fugitives)