AP lifts ban on military photos

The Associated Press on Friday lifted its suspension on the use of photos provided by the U.S. military after the Pentagon assured the news cooperative that it would avoid distributing altered images to the news media.

The AP also has strengthened its internal procedures for ensuring the integrity of photos from outside sources.

The temporary ban was imposed last week after the Army released a digitally manipulated photo of the U.S. military’s first female four-star general. The photo of Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody was the second Army-provided photo the AP eliminated from its service in the last two months.

Santiago Lyon, the AP’s director of photography, said he spoke with Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell, who told him the military branches would be reminded of a Defense Department instruction that prohibits making changes to images if doing so misrepresents the facts or the circumstances of an event.

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

The instruction does not bar cropping, editing or enlarging a photo to improve its quality. An image can also be changed for security or privacy reasons.

The AP has revised its internal procedures for handling handout photos from any outside source. These images must be closely examined in Photoshop, a photo editing program, by at least two editors. If there’s any question about the integrity of an image, it won’t be used.

In rare cases where an image from an outside source has been altered but the AP still elects to use it, the caption will explain why the photo was changed.

“AP pictures must always tell the truth,” Lyon wrote in a message to AP’s photo staff.