Anderson, Fay: We censor war photography in Australia

Fay Anderson

We censor war photography in Australia – more’s the pity‘, The Conversation, 4 May 2015

You may have noticed we recently marked the centenary of Anzac. One hundred years after Gallipoli, we are seeing photographs of telegenic young men in their pristine uniforms illustrating media and marketing opportunities …

What we don’t see is the reality of war. It has never been shown to us in Australia because photographers have never been allowed to present a true account. The searing, brutal images of “our boys” have rarely been published.

Australian newspaper photographers have always been forbidden to show military failure or fragility. During the first and second world wars the authorities censored all photographs from the frontline, and since the 1960s, despite the myth of the “uncensored war”, photographers have rarely been afforded unlimited access to Australian soldiers.

Although more than 100,000 Australians have lost their lives as a result of war service, photographs of our dead have never been published in newspapers. And images of the wounded are only shown when it accords with dignifying iconography.

Censoring war photography is part of the larger question of how wars are reported, which has been an issue for well over a century, since the days of WH Russell in the Crimea, and has led most recently to euphemisms like ’embedding’ (of journalists – placing them with the forces in return for their agreement to pull punches or to ensure they see as little as possible). There are resources here and here about how war correspondents work with governments and their armed forces. On war correspondents generally, we have placed a lot of material on the Honest History site, also here and here and check with our Search function.

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