Five years after the Department of Defense broadened its ban on press coverage of flag-draped caskets arriving at Dover Air Force Base, a congressional bill to take down the rule is gaining support.
U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) late last month introduced the Fallen Hero Commemoration Act, which would allow reporters and photographers access to "military commemoration ceremonies and memorial services" for service members who died on active duty. The National Press Photographers Association this week backed the bill.
"Without a loved one serving in the military, it is sometimes possible for Americans to overlook the sacrifices that have been made — and continue to be made — by members of the Armed Forces on behalf of our Nation," Jones said in a written statement. "By once again permitting access to accredited members of the media . . . this legislation would honor those who have given their lives in defense of our nation."
Defense Department restrictions on reporters watching the caskets arrive at Dover date back to the first Gulf War in 1991, but were expanded in 2003.
Coupled with the military’s shunning of embedded photographers who take photos of dead soldiers in the battlefield, the American public has been left with few visual images of the deadly toll the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken on the U.S. armed services.
And the restrictions have extended beyond Dover: just this summer, Arlington National Cemetery faced criticism after reporters were ordered to stay 50 yards away from service members’ funerals — even though the families had agreed to let them attend. The cemetery’s public affairs director was fired in June after she tried to fight that rule.