Sunday, April 5, 2009

Media Ban on Return of Fallen Soldiers: Insult or Respect?

Returning, troop, mediaIn many countries involved in recent wars, some have questioned whether or not the media should have access to the return of fallen soldiers to the mainland. In the United States a media ban was in effect for 18 years until the ban was lifted early this year. (Image: NY TImes blogs) In Canada, there was a short-lived ban imposed by the Conservative government in mid 2006. An outcry by the public and military along with the families of the soldiers forced the government to end the ban a month later.

As a compromise in Canada, the family must agree to allow media coverage. All next-of-kin members must make this decision unanimously. This condition also appears in the Obama decision. Before the ban in the United States was lifted, the media could not record:

  • The return of the coffin
  • Any ceremonies at the airbase
  • And, the transportation of the coffin from the base
I personally agree with the decision to allow consensual coverage of the return. While the notion of media coverage may seem to trivialize the importance of the life of a human who went to war with the best intentions in mind, no one will view these reports as entertainment or any other type of disrespect. People want to respect and honour what the soldiers gave to their countries. They did not die because the wanted to be viewed as heroes, but, if the coverage is done right, they deserve the moment of recognition this will give them.

The first returning soldier to receive media coverage in the United States will be Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers of Hopewell, Viriginia, who died in Afghanistan on April 4th.