The AP and an individual’s privacy

Huh – for *once* I actually agree with the Secretary of Defense:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is objecting “in the strongest terms” to an Associated Press decision to transmit a photograph showing a mortally wounded 21-year-old Marine in his final moments of life, calling the decision “appalling” and a breach of “common decency.”

The AP reported that the Marine’s father had asked – in an interview and in a follow-up phone call — that the image, taken by an embedded photographer, not be published.

The AP reported in a story that it decided to make the image public anyway because it “conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.”

The photo shows Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard of New Portland, Maine, who was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush Aug. 14 in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, according to The AP.

Gates wrote to Thomas Curley, AP’s president and chief executive officer. “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.”

The four-paragraph letter concluded, “Sincerely,” then had Gates’ signature.”


There is NO way this photo should ever have been released, published. Hell, even taken. But then I am a woman who also looks the the *other* way when passing a car accident in which my assistance is not needed. I specifically do *not* gawk, do not stare, but avert my eyes. Why? Because it is someone else’s personal tragedy. They are having a terrible day, possibly the worst in their lives, maybe the last in their lives: give them their privacy. Give them their peace, away from your inconsiderate prying public eyes. It is enough, too much already, to suffer great bad things in this mortal life…but to have to suffer them in public is so much worse, still. It’s just so wrong that people cannot respect other human beings enough to leave them be in tragedy (if you cannot assist or aide them). To not stare and gawk at the downfallen.

This dying Marine deserved that photographer’s respect. Not opportunistic ways. This is not an entertaining moment. This is a mortal individual beings’ death. A onetime child that someone loved. A billion thoughts, feelings, emotions, wild ideas and funny memories all ceasing to exist within a few moments time. Give him his privacy.

Some people *choose* to die in the public eye, and I am fine with that. It is their choice. But the choice is not automatically made just because you happen to get killed near an opportunistic photographer, or in a public place or service. We as individuals can choose to show some decency and look away.


One Response to “The AP and an individual’s privacy”

  1. This was one of the more gruesome aspects of living in Thailand when I was there a decade ago. Every day the Thai newspapers had a photo of the victim of a horrible accident or murder on the front page.

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