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Statement From The Associated Press On Its Coverage Of A Fallen Marine



The Associated Press has distributed a package of stories and photos about Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, 21, who last month was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade during a Taliban ambush in southern Afghanistan and died of his wounds.

The package was transmitted early on Thursday, Sept. 3, to be held under embargo until 12:01 a.m. Friday, Sept. 4, to give newspaper editors time to consider publication of one of the photos in the package, a graphic image showing Bernard being assisted by his fellow Marines in the midst of the firefight. AP also distributed the photo online in such a way that the image would not appear unless Web site operators allowed it, or readers clicked to signify they were prepared to see a graphic image.

The image was captured by an AP photographer who was embedded with Bernard's unit, along with an AP reporter and an AP Television News cameraman. The photographer, crouching under fire, took the picture from a distance with a long lens and did not interfere with Marines tending to Bernard. The photo was among several taken by the AP photographer, which included battles scenes as well as later scenes of Bernard's fellow Marines honoring his sacrifice at a memorial service.

The decision to release the photo of the mortally wounded Bernard followed long deliberations within AP about whether to do so. An AP reporter also met with Bernard's parents, so they could see the images in advance of their release.

AP journalists have covered conflict around the world for 163 years and witnessed countless scenes of war's deadly consequence. But the decision to distribute them is never quickly or easily made. Ultimately, in this case, AP decided that, in the context of the full report, it was important to show readers and viewers the images.

"AP journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is," Santiago Lyon, the director of photography for AP, said in a sidebar story included in the package about Bernard.

He said Bernard's death shows "his sacrifice for his country."

AP believes that the stories and photos report on Bernard and his last hours respectfully and conform with military regulations surrounding journalists embedded with U.S. forces.

Journalists embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan must sign a statement accepting a series of rules, which include provisions designed to protect operational security and the lives of the soldiers and Marines who host them in the field.

"We believe this image is part of the history of this war," said AP senior managing editor John Daniszewski. "The story and photos are in themselves a respectful treatment and recognition of sacrifice."

Paul Colford

The Associated Press

Director of Media Relations

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