AP Lifts Military Photo Ban

DoD will "avoid distributing altered images to the news media"

The Associated Press has lifted its week-old ban on using military-issued photographs after the Pentagon “assured the news cooperative that it would avoid distributing altered images to the news media,” the AP’s Richard Lardner reported today. The organization has also revised its policy for dealing with photos retrieved from an external source, in order to ensure the “integrity of photos.” The current policy has been expanded to include the following instruction:

These images must be closely examined in Photoshop […] by at least two editors. If there’s any question about the integrity of an image, it won’t be used.

The previous standard for evaluating photos from outside sources, however, still stands:

On those occasions when we transmit images that have been provided and altered by a source – the faces obscured, for example – the caption must clearly explain it.

Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon press secretary, told Santiago Lyon, the AP’s director of photography, that the military branches would be reminded of a Department of Defense instruction that reads:

Anything that weakens or casts doubt on the credibility of official DOD imagery in or outside the Department of Defense shall not be tolerated.

This instruction, however, does not prohibit editing, enlarging, or cropping a photo to “improve its quality,” or any changes that are made for “security or privacy reasons.”

The ban resulted when the AP received a digitally altered photograph of General Ann E. Dunwoody, the Army’s first female four-star general, who was promoted last Thursday. The Dunwoody alteration followed an infraction two months prior, when altered photos of two dead soldiers were released to the wire service.

Bob Owen, the deputy director of photography at the San Antonio Express-News who alerted the AP about the alterations each time, supports the measure.

“I think the AP has taken the necessary steps in setting up a procedure to check possible manipulated situations,” Owen said. “This is what they need to do. We’ll see if everyone can adhere to it, at least for the sake of our readers.”

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Megan McGinley is an intern at CJR.