Saturday, 26 July 2008

Censoring War Photographers

Photograph © Zoriah Miller-All Rights Reserved

The New York Times features a slideshow and accompanying article on the increasing control (aka censorship) by the American military on graphic images from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both slideshow and article make reference to Zoriah Miller, the photographer who posted images of marines killed in a June 26 suicide attack in Iraq on his Web site. Miller was subsequently forbidden to work in Marine Corps-controlled areas of the country. (For background on this, I've posted a Zoriah Miller slideshow on TTP just a week ago).

The thrust of the article is that photographers increasingly say the military allows them to embed but keeps them away from combat. Many say that they've been repeatedly thwarted by the military when they try to get to the front lines. I'm surprised at this since if we are to believe the news reports from Iraq, the so-called surge is working, and according to the Republican nominee for President, we are succeeding...so why keep away photographers from the battles? Shouldn't we enjoy seeing what our military might has caused?

The NY Times article is well worth a careful read, especially since it was co-authored by Michael Kamber, a war photographer himself (he recently published a scathing report on the Leica M8's performance) and based in Iraq.

The American military's argument is that it's protecting the sensibilities of families of the dead soldiers. Let's accept that this could be a valid argument to a certain extent, but let's also recognize that the American military's increasing censorship has more to do with preventing further erosion of public support to this unnecessary war than being "sensitive" than being attuned to the sensibilities of bereaved families. Sanitizing the horrors of war is what this is all about.

In the British newspaper The Guardian, Robert Fox penned an article titled Truth And Other Casualties of War, and refers to the Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner which graphically depicts a dead British soldier, and which was considered an outrage when it was unveiled in 1925, and he ends his article by saying this:

"It is a fitting testament to the dead of that war – as Miller's pictures are of his war in Iraq."