Conflict & Justice

Remembering AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus

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Credit: REUTERS/STAFF

AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus at the 2004 Olympic Games.

Two journalists working for the Associated Press were shot by a police officer in eastern Afghanistan Friday. One of the women, Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus, died in the attack.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

Reporter Kathy Gannon is reportedly in stable condition.

They had been traveling with election workers who were delivering ballots in eastern Afghanistan, ahead of this weekend's election.

Massoud Hossaini, an Afghan journalist and the AP's chief photographer in Kabul, remembers how Niedringhaus stood out in Afghanistan.

“First of all she was trying hard to find stories that other people, other photographers maybe never see, and she was really brave to go for those stories and follow the stories that she wanted," Hossaini says. "In a country like Afghanistan, this kind of woman, who really is a hard worker, impressed us a lot."

Hossaini says he learned a lot from her.

"If you just go to her pictures from south Afghanistan, you will see for example that when she's taking pictures of the soldiers in the operation and in the action, it was something that I was impressed with, how she was close to the scene and close to the subject in special and risky places."

At a time when many Americans, fatigued with the war, are losing interest in the story of Afghanistan, this may be another moment in which a storyteller loses her life in the name of keeping the focus on the story. 

Hossaini says he been "broken again" by Niedringhaus' death. It closely follows the March 21 murder of another journalist.

Gunmen walked into the Serena Hotel in Kabul, pulled out pistols and killed nine people including Ahmad Sardar, a 40-year-old Afghan AFP journalist.

"Sardar Ahmad was one of my best friends. I worked with him like seven years," Hossaini says. "Losing him in that kind of incident, to be honest, broke me down a lot. Now just a few weeks after that, another friend of mine, and my colleague was shot dead in Khost like this. So it's really disappointing for me, it's breaking us a lot. But I should tell you that we never back off. We just go and do our job and we fight for freedom of speech."

AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll says Niedringhaus was a "vibrant, dynamic journalist and well-loved for her insightful photographs, her warm heart and joy for life. We are heartbroken at her loss.''

Another friend of Niedringhaus is Scott Peterson, a journalist for the Christian Science Monitor. Peterson says that he knew Niedringhaus for many years and crossed paths with her in many of the same places.

"She lived her life in accordance with the magnificent humanity that we have always seen with her images…she was so remarkable."

 Journalist Jane Arraf in Baghdad, Iraq, remembered being embedded with Niedringhaus during the Battle for Fallujah in 2004. 

"[We] were both at the bombing of Red Cross headquarters ... She was legendary for both her bravery and her heart - you can see it in her photos. You can't get that close without being brave and you can't evoke that much feeling without a huge sense of empathy. Another tragedy but I would imagine like most of us, Anja thought there was enough at stake in showing the world what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan that she felt the risk was worth it." 

In a memo to AP staff, AP President Gary Pruitt on Friday remembered Niedringhaus as "spirited, intrepid and fearless, with a raucous laugh that we will always remember. ... This is a profession of the brave and the passionate, those committed to the mission of bringing to the world information that is fair, accurate and important. Anja Niedringhaus met that definition in every way."

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