NPR Story
1:59 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Former Colleague Remembers Slain AP Photographer

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 6:22 pm

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expressing sadness over the shooting attack that killed a veteran Associated Press photographer and wounded an AP reporter.

The two journalists had been sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan when an Afghan policeman opened fire on them. Photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed instantly, and reporter Kathy Gannon is hospitalized in stable condition.

A witness says the policeman surrendered and was arrested.

The attack came on the eve of nationwide elections in Afghanistan. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the vote.

Jamie Tarabay, former NPR foreign correspondent, met Niedringhaus in Gaza in the early 2000′s. She joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss the attack and the death of her colleague.

Interview Highlights: Jamie Tarabay

On how she remembers Anja Niedringhaus

“On so many levels, what Anja brought to her work and to her life — you know, I woke up this morning and my Facebook page was full of everyone’s remembrances of her. And the thing about Anja that everyone — it was unanimous — they all talked about her laughter. She has this really big laugh, you know, it just comes out of her gut. That’s how everybody remembers her, no matter where they might have met her or what they would have done with her. That’s how we all remember her, and that’s how I remember her. And our hearts are broken this morning.”

On Anja as a photojournalist

“She was a professional and she never shied away from the truth. And no matter how ugly it was, she was unafraid of capturing that with her photography. And she was also capable of some of the most incredibly harrowing, emotional, searing images. I mean, the way she approached all of her subjects — people, civilians, soldiers, wounded, dead — she’s extraordinary. And the gift that she shared with all of us, I’m really thankful today that so much of her work is being shown to people around the world so they can see just how much she did, and how much it is that the professional world has lost in this photographer.”

On the danger to journalists in Afghanistan

“Anja knew better than anybody the risks involved with covering war and she was very circumspect about it. You all have to be. And when you go there, you know that you have to do everything you can to minimize the risk as much as you can, but at the end of the day you also acknowledge that there is risk that you haven’t accounted for. And what happened with Anja and Kathy was so random — this policeman. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that this man walked up to this car and saw these two women sitting in the backseat and decided to shoot them.”

Guest

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Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. Friends and colleagues are reeling from the news of another assassination of a journalist in Afghanistan. Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was shot and killed when an Afghan policeman guarding the convoy she was in walked up to her car and shot her and AP reporter Kathy Gannon, who was seriously wounded.

Anja Niedringhaus was 48, an internationally acclaimed German photographer. We'll post some of her incredible pictures. Kathy Gannon, a correspondent who for many years was the AP Afghanistan bureau chief and is currently a special correspondent in the region, she was shot twice, later underwent surgery.

The attack came just before the country's elections in Afghanistan. The Taliban has vowed to disrupt Saturday's vote for the new president and provincial councils. In fact they also killed a prominent Afghan journalist recently.

Jamie Tarabay is NPR's former bureau chief in Baghdad. She covered the Iraq War, knew Anja Niedringhaus well, spoke with Kathy Gannon many times. Jamie, I know this is a loss of a friend for you, but it sounds like it was a loss for all of us.

JAMIE TARABAY: You know, on so many levels, what Anja brought to her work and to her life, you know, I woke up this morning, and my Facebook page was full of everyone's remembrances of her. And the thing about Anja that everyone, it was unanimous, they all talked about her laughter. She has this really big laugh, you know, it just comes out of her gut. That's how everybody remembers her, no matter where they might have met her or what they would have done with her. That's how we all remember her, and that's how I remember her, and our hearts are broken this morning.

YOUNG: Yeah. Well, a sense of humor but also a sense of purpose and seriousness. I'm scrolling through some of her pictures. Here are portraits of Afghan soldiers. Here are children crying, waiting for food from the World Food Program. Here is an American soldier recovering after an IED attack. Pretty remarkable photos.

TARABAY: I mean, she was a professional, and she never shied away from the truth, and no matter how ugly it was, she was unafraid of capturing that with her photography. And she was also capable of some of the most incredibly harrowing, emotional, searing images. I mean, the way she approached all of her subjects, people, civilians, soldiers, wounded, dead, she's extraordinary.

And the gift that she shared with all of us, I'm really thankful today that so much of her work is being shown to people around the world so they can see just how much she did and just how much it is that the professional world has lost in this photographer.

YOUNG: Well, and they range from - here's a young Afghan girl testing out new artificial limbs in Kabul at a physical rehab place. Here's an American soldier right as a suicide car bomb has gone off, which means she was there, as well.

Jamie, as somebody who ran the NPR bureau for so long, what do these - and there's no other way to say it. What do these assassinations say to you, Anja Niedringhaus today, recently a prominent Afghan journalist in a restaurant in a hotel, you know, Swedish journalist Nils Horner was assassinated a couple of weeks ago. Someone literally walked up to him on the streets in Kabul and put a gun to his head.

TARABAY: It's so difficult to be a journalist at a time when people are trying to disrupt the world. Honestly for the last 12 years or so, and as long as I've been doing this, there has never been a situation where we haven't felt that we were also being targeted. When Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and killed in such a terribly public way, it really showed that journalists were not considered to be noncombatants anymore, that we were really part of the ability for people to strike and to do everything they can to cause instability and insecurity.

Anja knew better than anybody the risks involved with covering war, and she was very circumspect about it. You all have to be. And when you go there, you know that you have to do everything you can to minimize the risk as much as you can, but at the end of the day, you also acknowledge that there is risk that you haven't accounted for.

And what happened in Anja and Kathy was so random. This policeman, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that this man walked up to this car and saw these two women sitting in the backseat and decided to shoot them. And this was a situation where it was a security convoy and you really normally wouldn't think that you wouldn't be more safer than you are in that position. And yet this happened.

YOUNG: Yeah. Well, you say your Facebook has got all these comments. What are you hearing from colleagues who are still there?

TARABAY: I swapped emails this morning with Rod Nordland, who is The New York Times reporter in Kabul, because I was actually talking with him yesterday. And, you know, your heart is in your throat when you see a headline now saying journalist killed in Afghanistan. And you're almost too afraid to click on the link because you don't want it to be someone that you know. And when I saw that I thought of him. I thought of another AP photographer, Mohammed Muheisen who is this incredibly talented Palestinian boy. I mean he's not a boy anymore but I knew him when he was still quite young and starting out. And you worry for them. You want them to be OK. And you sort of feel well, this is how everyone who worried about me felt when I was in Iraq and when I was, you know, in Gaza or wherever.

And you can only trust that they're going to take every precaution they can. And they're going to have their wits about them. You can't do anything more than that other than just to hope and pray that they make it OK.

YOUNG: And they don't have a choice to stay inside.

TARABAY: Well, they could but they choose not to. Because the most important thing for reporters like us, who cover the civilian experience, is the Afghan civilians don't have a choice. And that was something that Anja with saying recently. She said: I can always leave and they can't. So it was really important to her and it was really important to me. And it's really important to anyone who is there who tries to report on the civilian experience in wartime, to show that the civilian person cannot walk away from a situation like this, so why should I?

And it's just your heart is in your throat. My heart is in my throat right now. I can't deal - I mean I'm just - I can't deal with another person I know. I can't deal with that. It's just been too many. It's been too much. And yeah, it's difficult.

YOUNG: That's Jamie Tarabay, NPR's former Baghdad bureau chief where she knew Anja Niedringhaus, the AP photographer who was killed today in Afghanistan. Kathy Gannon, AP reporter, seriously injured.

Jamie, again, thank you so much.

TARABAY: No, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YOUNG: Such brave people.

You're listening to HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.