Last week the Associated Press published one of the most controversial photos taken during either the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is not unusual for an Associated Press photographer to be embedded with a Marine troop, following the Marines through their daily activities and visually recording their movements and actions. What is unusual is the acting Secretary of Defense (Robert Gates) asking the AP Press not to publish a particular photo that was taken during an ambush on a Marine convoy last month.
While [Associated Press photographer Julie Jacobson] was embedded with Marines in Helmand last month, a Marine convoy was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG. It struck Lance Corporal Joshua M. Bernard severing his legs. He was treated on the scene, but later died at a combat field hospital.
The AP took still photos and video of the attack, and of Bernard, as he lay dying.
Several weeks later, while working on a feature story about the war in Afghanistan, the AP reporter met with Bernard's family and told his father that they had photos and video of their son before he died. Bernard's father was furious that the photos of his mortally wounded son would potentially be published, so he reached out to the U.S. Marine Corps, asking them to stop the publication.
The AP had not violated any rules of embedding, so the Marines' hands were tied. Gates found out about this and called AP President Thomas Curley yesterday to try to stop the photo release.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates called Curley yesterday and was "begging him" to "defer to the wishes of the family," adding that the publication of the photo would "cause them great pain."
AP disagreed and the photo was released.
If we are mature enough as a nation to fight a war on foreign soil, shouldn't we also be mature enough to "show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is?" [Santiago Lyon, Director of Photography, AP]
Due to the controversial nature of this photo I am choosing not to re-publish the image on this blog. But if you would like to decide for yourself (as msnbc.com has chosen to do) you can view several of the images taken by Jacobson before and after the ambush in this slideshow.
Also, feel free to leave a comment below discussing whether or not you believe the photo should have been published. Is it the Associated Press's journalistic duty to publish any and all photos taken during the war? Or did they disrespect the wishes of the family who did not want the images published? Voice your opinion!