18-year US media ban on covering return of fallen soldiers lifted

Thursday, April 9, 2009 File:Coffins.jpg

The return of United States war casualties
Image: Colin Mutchler (activefree).
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

The media were allowed to cover the return of an airman killed in Afghanistan on Monday, ending an 18-year ban that had prevented the publication of images of American war casualties.

The military allowed media access to the service in Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the return of the body of Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers of Hopewell, of Virginia, after the family had given permission.

According to the Department of Defense, the 30-year-old airman was killed on April 4 near Helmand province, Afghanistan, after being hit with an improvised explosive device.

The ban had been enacted by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War, apparently as a way to shield grieving families. But critics claimed the ban was an attempt to hide the human cost of war. President Barack Obama had asked the United States Department of Defense for a review of the ban. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was "never comfortable" with the blanket restriction, according to USA Today.