In Thanks To Those We Have Lost On The Frontlines


Frontline Club, London (Photo:Mark Hillary/Flickr)

The Thanksgiving holiday in the United States coincides with the journalistic awards season here in Britain. Last night, I attended a ceremony honouring some of our craft's best. It was an event that provoked feelings of pride and sadness at the same time.
I was at the Frontline Club a gathering place, for journalists that celebrates those whose work embodies courage and independence. So it was that the evening's first award was given to a young French journalist, Mathieu Mabin, for his work in Libya. Mabin, not formally trained as a cameraman, shot his own footage and told the story of the advance of a group of rebels toward Tripoli.
His acceptance speech, given via Skype from Beirut, was humble and touching, particularly when he paid tribute to colleagues who died covering the war.
Mabin worked beside two of them the day before they were killed. Last night, they and one other journalist were honored posthumously.
Photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros died covering the fighting in Misrata. An American, Chris was an experienced and talented photojournalist who won numerous awards.
Anton Hammerl, who was shot and killed by troops loyal to Colonel Muammar Gadaffi. His family did not learn of his death until well over a month after he died, believing the Gadaffi regime's assurance that he was being held.
Watching Hondro's colleague, James Brabazon, Hetherington's father, Alistair and Hammerl's widow, Penny Sukhraj accept the honours on behalf of those they loved, I was struck by the talent and commitment that had been lost.
Each of them accepted in the names of those now dead in strikingly different ways: Brabazon by proclaiming his awestruck admiration for his colleague's skill, Alistair Hetherington by saying few words, beyond stating how much his son would appreciate the award. Penny Sukhraj acknowledged a further tragedy when she spoke, revealing that her husband's remains have still not been found.
A day of thanksgiving provides a moment for reflection. I have reported from war zones and I understand the dangers involved. Last night and today, I pause to remember the sacrifice of fellow journalists I never met and to remember them with respect and gratitude.