Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 16:59 UK

US war dead media blackout lifted

The coffin  of Air Force Staff Sgt Phillip Myers is lowered onto the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, 5 April 2009
Sgt Myers's coffin arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware

The media have been given access to the return home of a dead US soldier for the first time since an 18-year ban on coverage was lifted.

Reporters were allowed to witness the ceremony marking the return of the body of Air Force Staff Sgt Phillip Myers, with the permission of his family.

Sgt Myers was killed by an improvised explosive device near Helmand province, Afghanistan on 4 April.

The media ban was first put in place during the 1991 Gulf War.

President George H W Bush, who implemented the media blackout, said it was necessary to protect the families of fallen soldiers.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly says critics of the ban always felt it was an attempt by the American government to disguise the human cost of the war from public opinion.

Flag-draped coffin

President Obama and Defence Secretary Robert Gates opted to change the policy shortly after Mr Obama took office.

Under new guidelines, the media are allowed access to the ceremonies, but only with the permission of the dead soldiers' family members.

Sgt Myers's flag-draped coffin arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on the evening of 5 April.

After a brief prayer was delivered by Maj Klavens Noel, the base's mortuary chaplain, the coffin was carried from a military transport plane to a white truck by eight men wearing white gloves and camouflage battle uniforms.

The truck then transported the coffin to the base's morgue where it will be processed before being returned to his family.

Sgt Myers's widow and other family members, along with around two dozen members of the media, attended the 20-minute-long ceremony.

Although Sgt Myers's family consented to the media presence, they declined to be interviewed or photographed.

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