Friday, October 16, 2009
BOB GARFIELD: And now, an update on a new military rule governing photojournalists in the field of war. Last week, a group called The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press posted the month-old rule, which stipulates that, quote, “The media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action.” That’s a reversal of past policy, which stated that journalists can take pictures of slain service members, provided they wait for families to be notified before releasing the images. According to Congressional Quarterly, the new policy applies to Eastern Afghanistan and is the direct result of a decision by the Associated Press to release a photo of Lance Corporal Joshua M. Bernard in the act of dying, despite his family’s wishes and protests from Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The rule change surprised us because we spoke with Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell following the controversy over the AP photo. He told us in September that they did not plan to change the policy.
GEOFF MORRELL: We're not looking to change any rules. We're not looking to make it more restrictive or more onerous for reporters to do their work. We are the biggest champions of reporters in the battlefield.
BOB GARFIELD: Morrell told us then that Defense Secretary Gates expected editors to use their best judgment when deciding to release photos but, at least in Eastern Afghanistan, that decision has now been made for them, and for their readers.