KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The military will not allow the media to cover the return of troops killed in the war with Iraq when their remains arrive at Ramstein Air Base or other interim military bases on their way to the United States.

The Department of Defense also has banned ceremonies honoring the dead at the interim bases.

The policy, released via e-mail to Stars and Stripes on Friday, is a departure from previous public affairs guidelines that allowed journalists to cover such ceremonies as planes carrying the dead made their way back to the United States.

Typically, ceremonies took place at the flight line at Ramstein, often the first stop for flights heading back from Southwest Asia. After the planes landed, a military honor guard and, at times, members of the deceased’s unit, removed flag-draped coffins from the plane and placed them in waiting vehicles. Broadcast and print journalists frequently covered the solemn ceremonies, monitored by military public affairs representatives.

The reason behind the change was unclear on Friday. DOD public affairs officer Lt. Col. Cynthia Colin in Washington said she was too busy to explain the change by Stripes’ deadline. Public affairs officers at Ramstein referred questions to the U.S. European Command.

“Servicemembers will receive proper honors for their service to their country at the interment site,” Capt. Norris Jones, a EUCOM spokesman, said before referring further questions to DOD.

The public affairs guidelines released said: “Media representatives will be reminded of the sensitivity of using names of individual casualties, or photographs they may have taken which clearly identify casualties, until after notification of next-of-kin.”

The policy also states that DOD photos of servicemembers wounded or killed in action in which the individual may be clearly identified will not be released.

One media analyst said that the policy appears to be an effort to control public perception about the war.

“They may feel that it sends a bad message and maybe makes the casualties a little too real,” said Dow Smith, an associate professor in broadcast journalism at Syracuse University.

However, Smith, a former Navy public affairs officer, said he thought that such coverage during the early days of the conflict in Afghanistan was “kind of overplayed.”

The media may have access to troops injured in the fighting against Iraq, however. Those treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, for example, will be given an option to tell their stories to the media, Norris said.

The attending physician or facility commander must give his or her consent to such an interview as well, the guidelines state.

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