U.S. Military Defends Erasing Images from Afghanistan

By: E&P Staff

The U.S. military in Afghanistan on Monday defended seizing and erasing press photographs and video after an incident which left up to 10 civilians dead, Agence France-Presse reported this afternoon, saying this was allowed in “extreme circumstances.”

Journalists working for the Associated Press and Afghan media said soldiers deleted footage of a site in eastern Nangarhar province where U.S. troops opened fire after an ambush. Demonstrations broke out afterward as witnesses claimed the shootings were unwarranted. One journalist said a soldier warned that if he didn’t delete the photos “we’ll delete you.”

The AFP report continues as follows.

A media spokesman for the US-led coalition admitted some pictures of the scene may have been erased. “Some of those facts may be accurate but there is some context that is due,” Mitchell told AFP.

The journalists had gone beyond a security perimeter and had been asked to remove their images to “protect the integrity of the investigation,” he said, adding that the scene may have been altered before they arrived.

The concern had been that the “photographers would not accurately represent what the scene looked like immediately after the ambush,” Mitchell said.

“In this case we give a lot of deference to the commanders at the site conducting the investigation,” he said.

However, “we have reminded our forces in the area that only in extreme circumstances is this practice condoned,” Mitchell added.

The United Nations said it was trying to verify what happened.

In “general nobody should be allowed to interfere in journalists carrying out their lawful work,” spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

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