The Associated Press published a photo this week of a
Marine fatally wounded in battle, choosing after a period of reflection
to make public an image it believes “conveys the grimness of war and the
sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.”
“AP journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no
exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of
the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is,” said
Santiago Lyon, the director of photography for AP.
The wounded Marine is Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, 21, of New Portland, Maine. He was struck
by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush Aug. 14 in Helmand
province of southern Afghanistan. The image shows fellow Marines helping Bernard after he was hit. He was evacuated to a field hospital where he died
on the operating table.
The AP released the photos for publication on Thursday. The news network
reported that it met with Bernard’s family and waited until after the
Marine’s burial on Aug. 24 to distribute its story and pictures, accompanied by photgrapher Julie Jacobson’s journal and an article explaining why the photo was used.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week called the AP’s decision “appalling.” In a letter to AP’s president and chief executive officer, Thomas Curley, Gates wrote: “Out of respect for his family’s wishes, I ask you in the strongest of
terms to reconsider your decision. I do not make this request lightly.
In one of my first public statements as Secretary of Defense, I stated
that the media should not be treated as the enemy, and made it a point
to thank journalists for revealing problems that need to be fixed – as
was the case with Walter Reed.”
“I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal
Bernard’s death has caused his family. Why your organization would
purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will
lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and
common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken
child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling.
The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but
judgment and common decency.”
Gates’ letter was sent Thursday. A Pentagon spokesman said Gates followed up with a phone call “begging” Curley not to use it. After the photo was published Friday, the Pentagon released its communications with the AP to the public.
John Daniszewski, AP senior
managing editor, said he respected Gates’ view but that sometimes the
government and press have different perspectives.
“We thought that the image told a story of sacrifice;
it told a story of bravery,” Daniszewski said. “We felt that the
picture told a story that people needed to see and be aware of.”
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