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House Bill Seeks Photographer Access to Military Funerals

House Bill Seeks Photographer Access to Military Funerals House Bill Seeks Photographer Access to Military Funerals

A new bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this July that would allow media access to the funeral ceremonies for members of the armed services who have died on active duty.

The Fallen Hero Commemoration Act, H.R. 6662, was introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and has gained the support of press organizations including the National Press Photographers Association and the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

If the bill goes into effect, the Department of Defense would be required to give journalists access to ceremonies of soldiers killed in action, ending the ban that has been in place since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. During the Vietnam War, however, caskets draped in American flags were commonplace on television and newspaper reports, according to Jones.

Since 1991, the Department of Defense has allowed, on at least two separate occasions, media access to arrival ceremonies: In 1996, at the service for Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, and in 2002, for soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. A 2003‚"no-media‚" policy expanded the ban by stopping ceremonies and media coverage at Ramstein Air Base and Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Photos made during the current Iraq War have, in turn, been leaked to the press, including a 2004 front-page image taken by former military contractor Tami Silicio, showing caskets at Kuwait International Airport. Some images had also been obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

H.R. 6662 is co-sponsored by six other members of the House, including Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.). At press time, the bill was expected to receive a hearing in September.