Military Committed to Free Press, Sometimes

The military says that the erasing of AP footage of an incident in which US soldiers might have killed civilians was justified. According to Editor and Publisher, Colonel Victor Petrenko, chief of staff to the top US commander in eastern Afghanistan said that “We are completely committed to a free and independent press, and we hope that we can help encourage this tradition in places where new and free governments are taking root.” However, he also says that “It so happens that on these two recent occasions, military operational or security requirements were compelling interests that overrode the otherwise protected rights of the press,” leading one to wonder what free press is worth if it’s to easily “overridable.”

Apparently, photos by “untrained people” (how AP photographers are included in this is unknown) might “capture visual details that are not as they originally were.” However, the photographers met requests to stay a certain distance from the site, and even if they had not, deleting images would not have suddenly set the scene back as it was.

An additional issue for the military was that the images might lead to false public conclusions. Obvious questions about what makes it “false” aside, that’d be a reason to prohibit them temporarily from publishing, not to delete them.

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