Few privacy concerns regarding photographs of the Haitian dead

January 17, 2010 | By | Reply More
Peacekeeping - MINUSTAH

Image by United Nations (Creative Commons - Flickr)

The United States has fiercely resisted allowing photographs of dead U.S. soldiers, allegedly because of “privacy concerns” regarding the families of the deceased.  In February, 2009, the military finally lifted an 18-year old ban on taking photos of only the coffins of deceased U.S. soldiers.  In October, 2009, The U.S. military banned photos of troops killed in action in Afghanistan. Amy Goodman has argued (correctly, in my opinion), that the Middle Eastern wars currently being fought by the U.S. would quickly be ended if only the public were allowed to see the devastating effects of these wars on U.S. troops and on the civilian populations.

How believable is the excuse given by the U.S. and by many members of the U.S. media for severely limiting photos of our dead soldiers? Is it really out of respect for the grieving families? Are “privacy” concerns the real the reason the media acquiesces in this policy of showing only a highly sterilized version of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I don’t believe so.   Why are the U.S. media so willing to freely discuss the horror of the Haitian deaths and to show graphic photos of Haitian people who have been severely injured or killed in the Haitian Earthquakes? And see here and here and here.  There doesn’t seem to be much concern about the “privacy” of the Haitian victims and their families.

It seems that the decision to show (or not show) photos of injured and dead people has much more to do with politics than with privacy.

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Category: photography, Politics, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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