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On Wednesday, April 20, the Associated Press confirmed that Tim Hetherington, co-director of the Oscar-nominated Restrepo as well as the Pulitzer prize nominated photographer Chris Hondros had been killed in the city of Misrata, Libya. The two men, alongside two other photographers, came under fire in the besieged city and were brought in by rebels after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.
Mr Hondros had, according to the New York Times, suffered “an extensive loss of brain tissue and was revived twice before being triaged from care. He spent several hours in a coma and died after 10 p.m.” Mr Hetherington had upon arrival to the triage centre already lost large amounts of blood and doctors were unable to stabilize him, a source told the New York Times. He died soon after.
Of the other two men wounded, Guy Martin, a British photographer, suffered a severe pelvic wound and underwent surgery during the night where doctors managed to stop the bleeding. The fourth member of the group, Michael Christopher Brown, suffered wounds to the shoulder but nothing life threatening.
Misrata is the third-largest city in Libya and has been the battleground of intense fighting for weeks. Hundreds of Libyans have been confirmed killed, according to the New York Times report. On the day of the attack, Hetherington tweeted “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.” Hetherington have been working in similar, dangerous environment while covering political conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. His collaboration with Sebastian Junger on the documentary Restrepo brought the British national international acclaim when it was nominated at this years Academy Awards.
However, covering the fighting in Libya has proven itself extremely difficult as journalists are subjected to heavy fire from multiple sources and face the risk of “arrest, beatings and detention from the pro-Qaddafi forces.” Just last month, two other journalists were killed in the Libyan conflict; Mohammad al-Nabbous, founder of the online Libya Al-Hurra TV, was killed by an unknown gunman and Ali Hassan al-Jaber, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was shot during an ambush on his crew.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent organization promoting global press freedom, have documented more than 80 attacks on the press in Libya since February. “Our hearts go out to family, friends, and colleagues of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, whose work in some of the world’s most dangerous places has had a profound impact on how we understand and perceive war,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “Their deaths are another illustration of war’s cruelty and a reminder of how devastatingly difficult coverage of the Libyan conflict has become.”
Human Rights Watch, who’s staff knew the photographers, arranged shortly after the confirmation of the deaths to have the bodies evacuated to Benghazi with the Ionian Spirit, a vessel chartered by the International Organization for Migration. According to the New York Times, officials from England and the US have begun preparing for the remains of Mr Hetherington and Mr Hondros to be repatriated from Libya after the voyage.
At Toonari Post, our thoughts are with the family and friends of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros.
Photo Credit: Michael von Bergen – a swiss independent photojournalist currently based out of Bogota. Please visit: http://www.flickr.com/people/vonbergendotnet/