Rule Banning Photographers At Dover Overturned

February 26, 2009

In a move that is likely to raise the ire of military members and their families, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today that the news media will be allowed to photograph flag-draped coffins of fallen US Servicemembers, as long as their family members agree. The change will allow family members to chose if the media is allowed to photograph their fallen loved ones’ return at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

“I have decided that the decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover should be made by those most directly affected — on an individual basis — by the families of the fallen,” Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

“We ought not to presume to make that decision in their place,” added Gates, who began reviewing the policy at the request of President Barack Obama.1

This decision, will likely continue the controversy that has been raging across the milblog world. The ban, initiated in 1991, by President George H.W. Bush, was meant as a way to shild grieving families from the glare of the media. Opponents of the ban, have proclaimed that to not allow the news media to photograph the flag draped coffins as they are returned to the United States, claim that the ban was meant only to hide the human cost of war from the citizens of the country. The decision will likely be viewed by some as the right thing to do, while others will be angered at the decision and the fact that many feel that military families, especially Gold Star Families weren’t consulted on the decision.

Gates made it clear that family members would be the ones who made the decision whether the the media will be allowed to photograph the return of their fallen loved one. My question is, what’s to stop media personnel from stationing themselves a distance away and utilizing telephoto lenses to photograph the return of our fallen warriors, if their family members do not give permission? I think this decision is a bad one and feel that it only opens up grieving family members to more trauma and stress than they are already facing. Having seen members of the media in action in the past and their tendency to push the envelope, I see them stretching the boundaries and going against the wishes of the family members, at every opportunity that presents itself. I just don’t see that the Pentagon will be able to prevent these breaches from occurring, once they open the door to opportunity. As much as I respect Robert Gates, I feel that in this instance, he made a very wrong and poor decision.

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