Dead Iraqi Soldier, Ken Jarecke (photograph)
Artist: Ken Jarecke
Date of Action: August 2021
Region: North America
Location: Basra, Iraq
Confronting Bodies: Associated Press
Description of Artwork: Photojournalist Ken Jarecke captured an image of the charred corpse of an Iraqi soldier trying to escape from a burned out vehicle in March 1991, during the first Gulf War conflict.
The Incident: When the image reached the New York offices of the Associated Press, the image was deemed too graphic for distribution. It was pulled from the wire.
Results of Incident: The image did not appear in mainstream United States media. Because it was censored by the Associated Press before distribution, it was not released to newspaper editors and individual papers were not given the opportunity to use their own discretion on whether or not to publish it. It was published only by the London Observer, where it generated considerable controversy.
The case raises questions about photojournalism in the context of modern warfare and the problems associated with private censorship of journalism.
It's important to note that the Associated Press censored the image of its own volition, and was not forced to do so by any governmental or military entity.
Jarecke was quoted as saying "If I don't make pictures like this, people like my mother will think what they see in war is what they see in movies." This underscores the importance of graphic war photography. Much of the Gulf War imagery which was accessible to the public consisted of video footage from bomb-dropping planes. It visually reduced the conflict to the level of a video game, allowing the public to feel disconnected from the violence. Jarecke's image was a rare example of a boots-on-the-ground photojournalism, demonstrating the fact that these bombs were being dropped on actual human beings, not arbitrary targets in a game.