National Press Club

National Press Club decries embedding censorship

October 16, 2009

The U.S. military’s decision to bar embedded reporters in Afghanistan from publishing photographs of U.S. military personnel injured or killed in action hampers journalists' ability to independently report the war and the public's right to know.

"The U.S. military should not determine what is and is not news," National Press Club President Donna Leinwand said. "Censoring journalists who cover war and permitting only government-approved news and photographs undermines our country's fundamental commitment to a free and independent press."

The policy applies to Regional Command East, which distributes press badges to reporters in Afghanistan. Initially, the policy barred media from even photographing or recording video of U.S. personnel killed in action. A policy modification announced Wednesday says journalists may view, photograph and videotape casualties, but may not publish the images.

In a democracy, the news media serve a critical watchdog role on the three branches of government. When government seeks to control the media, it weakens that independence and devalues the information released to the press and the public.

This move is particularly disappointing in light of President Obama’s pledge to foster transparency in his administration.