Against Family’s Wishes, the AP Releases Picture of Dying Marine


By: Kristia Cavere

Despite special appeals by both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the fallen soldier’s family, the Associated Press (AP) released photographs of a severely injured Marine during his last, excruciatingly painful moments of life.

Lance Corporal Joshua “Bernie” Bernard, a twenty-one year old from Maine, was serving in Afghanistan. On August 14, 2009, he was struck by a grenade in an ambush and suffered fatal leg injuries.

AP photographer Julie Jacobson took a picture of Lance Corporal Bernard’s wounded and bleeding body as he lay dying. The AP then decided to release the photograph for publication by media outlets such as print and online newspapers.

Secretary Gates objected “in the strongest terms” to the AP’s decision. In a letter to AP President and CEO Tom Curley, Secretary Gates wrote, “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.”

In his letter, Secretary Gates also wrote that the using a picture of a dying soldier would be an “unconscionable departure” from the restraint that the majority of journalists have exhibited in their coverage of the military during the global war on terrorism. A Pentagon spokesman stated that, after sending his letter, Mr. Gates called the AP “begging” Mr. Curley not to use this picture.
The AP admitted that Lance Corporal Bernard’s father had asked twice, both in an interview and later during a phone call, that the picture of his son not be published. Mr. John Daniszewski, senior managing editor for the AP, stated that “We did not ask permission” to use the image but admitted that they “were very aware the family wished for the picture not to be seen.”

It is disgraceful for the AP to release the photo of Lance Corporal Bernard despite the pleas of his mourning family. The AP has violated the privacy of a Gold Star family who lost their son. They have turned a soldiers’ tragedy into an exploitative display even after his family and Secretary Gates asked for restraint.

The AP, and other media organizations, seem quite capable of using restraint for victims of other horrifying acts, such as rape or assault victims. If the media can show enough respect to a crime victim and their family by not showing their image, why can’t they show equal respect by not releasing photographs of our injured or dying soldiers when the family objects?

Should anyone like to contact the AP and voice their opinion over their decision regarding the release of this photograph, their main phone number is (212) 621-1500 and their email is info@ap.org.


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