Reuters photographer killed in Afghanistan: “He was our eye”

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A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Reuters news service was killed on Friday while chronicling fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban near a strategic border post amid the continued withdrawal of US troops and the ‘NATO.

The Danish Siddiqui, 38, had been integrated into the Afghan special forces in recent days and was killed as the commando unit fought for control of the Spin Boldak crossing on the border between southern Afghanistan and the Pakistan.

Siddiqui was part of a team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Film Photography for their coverage of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. More recently, he had captured striking footage of India’s fight against COVID-19 and protests against new farm laws.

Reuters photographer Danish Siddiqui covers monsoon floods and landslides in upper Govindghat, India on Saturday June 22, 2013 (AP)
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Reuters photographer Danish Siddiqui covers monsoon floods and landslides in upper Govindghat, India on Saturday June 22, 2013 (AP)

Farhat Basir Khan, professor of mass communication at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, praised his former student’s sense of empathy and his determination to tackle difficult and complex stories.

“He was our eye. He gave voice and power to thousands of people whose suffering could have been lost,” Khan said in a statement. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, his is worth millions.”

Siddiqui and a senior Afghan officer were killed as the special forces unit fought to retake Spin Boldak’s main market, Reuters reported, citing the military.

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The Taliban handed over Siddiqui’s body to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Indian authorities said.

Reuters said it was seeking more information on how Siddiqui was killed, describing him as a “devoted husband and father, and much loved colleague”.

“It is so devastating for me to imagine that I will no longer speak Danish,” said Ahmad Masood, Asia editor at Reuters Pictures. “A kind-hearted human being.… He was the best of the best, both as a person and as a professional. His work says a lot about his bravery and his passion for photojournalism. He cared about himself.”

State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Jalina Porter expressed condolences from the United States, saying Siddiqui was “celebrated for his work often in the world’s most urgent and difficult reports and for creating striking images that conveyed a wealth of emotion and the human face behind the headlines.

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“Siddiqui’s death is a huge loss, not only for Reuters and its media colleagues, but also for the rest of the world,” she said.

The fighting around Spin Boldak comes as US and NATO forces complete the final phase of their withdrawal from Afghanistan, opening the door for the Taliban to take control of vast swathes of territory. District after district, the Taliban have fallen to the Taliban, and insurgents have taken several key border crossings in recent weeks, putting more pressure on the Afghan government and cutting off strategic trade routes.

A native of New Delhi, Siddiqui was a self-taught photographer who had served as a defense correspondent for one of India’s major television stations before deciding to change careers.

Siddiqui said he became frustrated because the TV news focused only on the big stories, not the small features of the interior of India that he wanted to explore, according to a 2018 interview with Forbes India. . He quit his well-paying television job in 2010 to become an intern at Reuters.

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A montage of his best work compiled by Reuters includes photos of traditional Indian wrestlers covered in mud, Hindu priests praying in a cave above the Ganges and a lint-covered man hand-feeding cotton into aging machines .

“While I love to cover the news – from business to politics to sports – what I love most is capturing the human face of a last minute story,” he said. written in a profile on the Reuters website. as a result of different types of conflict. ”

Siddiqui and his colleagues received the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for what the judges called “shocking photographs that exposed the world to the violence that Rohingya refugees faced while fleeing Myanmar.”

One of her award-winning images shows an exhausted woman slumped on the sand, while in the background men behind her unload the boat that took them to safety in Bangladesh.

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Capturing the footage was difficult, as photographers had to walk barefoot for up to four hours through rice paddies to reach the border area, Siddiqui told Forbes.

“It is also something emotional,” he said. “I am the father of a two year old and to see children drowning is terrible. But, as a journalist, you have to do your job. I’m glad I was able to… balance profession and emotion and know when to give evidence. my camera to save the children left in the water by the fishermen. ”

Siddiqui has covered the conflict in Iraq, the earthquakes in Nepal and the protests in Hong Kong. But in recent months, he has turned his lens towards India’s COVID-19 pandemic, offering vivid images of those who have suffered and died without adequate medical care and oxygen.

“I shoot for the common man who wants to see and feel a story from a place where he cannot be present himself,” he wrote.

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Among the tributes paid to Siddiqui on social media was one of his posts at the Pulitzer Prize ceremony in New York. It showed a close-up of the name tag that identified him as the “2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Photography”.

“For Sarah and Yunus,” he wrote above the image, remembering his children as he received the prestigious award.

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