But there was still confusion Friday about what photographers will be allowed to capture on the battlefield. The ban put in place by regional commanders at the Bagram Air Field was partly in reaction to a controversy over distribution last month of a photo by The Associated Press showing a U.S. Marine mortally wounded in a grenade attack.
The AP distributed the picture to its members despite pleas by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and against the wishes of the Marine's family in Maine.
Shortly afterward, the Afghanistan regional command changed the rules that reporters and photographers are required to sign before being embedded with a unit. The amended rules stated: "Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action."
The AP photo was one factor in the change, said Maj. Virginia McCabe, a Bagram-based spokeswoman for Regional Command East.
"It's a unique situation when a reporter embeds," she said. "They are given unfettered access to our soldiers. And in doing so, they are going to see things they would not normally see."
News organizations say they try to be respectful in such coverage. But there's a long history of photography that gives citizens the sense of what wartime is really all about, said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
"I'm really concerned about the government deciding what's newsworthy, instead of a news organization deciding what's newsworthy," she said.
Maya Alleruzzo, an AP photographer recently assigned to Afghanistan after working in Iraq, found she was prohibited from shooting pictures of damaged vehicles, wounded soldiers without their permission and soldiers who were killed in action.
"I felt like I was welcome to cover everything else but the war," she said.
After news organizations protested the amended rule, the Pentagon suggested a rewrite. The new rule released Thursday would allow photography of casualties but said participating news organizations could not use material where there is a recognizable face or other identifiable feature. Journalists could not write about or photograph wounded troops unless those service members give prior permission.
Prior to the AP's controversial photo in September, news organizations had much more leeway to publish photos of the dead as soon as the next of kin had been notified ? even though much less of this material has been shown during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than in past conflicts.
The Pentagon intervened to tell the field commanders that the complete ban on images was too restrictive, but stopped short of ordering a rewrite. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the second version still does not give news organizations enough freedom. "Only about half my concerns were resolved," he said.
Whitman said he had asked for a second revision, but none came by the close of business Friday in Afghanistan. Another Pentagon spokesman, Dave Lapan, said field commanders were still reviewing it.
"Any time that you're talking about casualties, the reporting of casualties and imagery of casualties, it's an emotional issue," Whitman said. The Defense Department is chiefly concerned that its rules of embeds preserve operational security and the military's system for giving relatives notice of casualties, he said.
John Daniszewski, AP senior managing editor, said he's still waiting for the outcome of the Pentagon's review.
"We are seeking the freedom to cover the war in Afghanistan and the armed forces so as to provide as much information as possible to the hundreds of millions of people who have a keen interest in developments in the conflict," Daniszewski said.
Earlier story today by Daryl Lang of our sister publication Photo District News:
The U.S. command in Afghanistan that last month banned pictures of military personnel killed in action has reversed its policy.
The change came as the Pentagon called the ban an ?isolated incident? amid media scrutiny this week.
The rule, which was issued by the Regional Command East media operations center in early September, said, ?Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action.? It was inserted into the RC East media embed ground rules soon after the Associated Press distributed a photograph of a mortally wounded American Marine in Afghanistan.
RC East revised its guidelines Thursday to say, ?Media will not be prohibited from viewing or filming casualties,? along with a list of conditions under which the publication of those images is restricted. The new language is in sync with other military embed agreements in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In a statement Thursday, the media operations center at RC East said it acted ?to further clarify the command?s intent to protect the privacy and propriety of our service members who are killed or mortally wounded in action.?
?This change better synchronizes RC East media ground rules with those of our higher headquarters,? the statement explained.
Stars & Stripesreported Thursday that a Pentagon spokesperson called the RC East photo ban an ?isolated incident.? Spokesperson Bryan Whitman told reporters he personally expressed concerns to U.S. Central Command about the RC East rule, and ?they will tell you that they?ve probably had similar questions about it and that?s why they?re addressing it.?
RC East?s photo ban went largely unnoticed until October 9, when the rule change was reported by the blog of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. PDNconfirmed the report Wednesday and the story quickly spread to other outlets.
Pictures of American military deaths are rare, and when they are taken news outlets are often reluctant to publish them. Last month relatively few newspapers ran the controversial AP picture by photographer Julie Jacobson, which was part of a package of stories and photos about the death of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard.
Here are the rules on casualty photos as they appeared in RC East?s media embed documents before and after the changes.
?10. Media will not be prohibited from covering casualties provided the following conditions are adhered to:
a. Names, video, identifiable written/oral descriptions or identifiable photographs of wounded service members will not be released without the service member?s prior written consent. If the service member later becomes a KIA, Rule 10(b) applies.
b. DOD will release names of KIAs. In respect for family members, names or images clearly identifying individuals ?killed in action? will not be released prior to notification of next of kin and in accordance with current legislation. Names of KIAs may be released after the DOD announcement has been made ? journalists may check the Defenselink.mil Web site for those announcements.?
?10. Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action. Written coverage of all killed and wounded is also prohibited unless the following conditions are adhered to:
a. Names or identifiable written/oral descriptions of wounded service members will not be released without the service member?s prior written consent. If the service member later becomes a KIA, Rule 10(b) applies.
b. DOD will release names of KIAs. In respect for family members, names or identifying oral/written reporting of individuals ?killed in action? will not be released prior to notification of next of kin and in accordance with current legislation. Names of KIAs may be released after the DOD announcement has been made ? journalists may check the Defenselink.mil Web site for those announcements.?
?14. Media will not be prohibited from viewing or filming casualties; however, casualty photographs showing recognizable face, nametag or other identifying feature or item will not be published. In respect to our family members, names, video, identifiable written/oral descriptions or identifiable photographs of wounded service members will not be released without the service member?s prior written consent. If the service member dies of his wounds, next-of-kin reporting rules then apply. Media should contact the PAO for release advice.?
-- Nielsen Business Media
By: Military leaders in Afghanistan have backed off an attempt to ban news organizations embedded with the Army from photographing or videotaping images of U.S. personnel killed in the war.