Afghanistan appears deadlier for journalists

A targeted attack killed a longtime AP photographer on Friday

Afghanistan may be becoming more dangerous for journalists, most recently evidenced by the violent attack by an Afghan policeman on two Associated Press staffers on Friday, resulting in the death of a photographer.

The attack killed Anja Niedringhaus, 48, a German Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, and injured reporter Kathy Gannon. The policeman fired into the reporters’ car in the Khost province in eastern Afghanistan as they travelled to cover the upcoming presidential election. Gannon, who was wounded twice, is now in stable condition.

“The loss of Anja Niedringhaus and the serious injuries to Kathy Gannon in Khost while covering preparations for elections reflect the heightened dangers of reporting from Afghanistan,” Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement condemning the attacks. “Both women, widely experienced in conflict zones, are recognized for their decades of fearless reporting. As pre-election violence mounts, Afghanistan has become a dangerous assignment on par with the height of the Iraq war or the current situation in Syria.”

According to CPJ, prior to Niedringhaus’ death, 26 journalists had been killed in Afghanistan since 1992, making it the 12th deadliest country for reporters overall—the sixth deadliest this year. Last month, Swedish radio reporter Nils Horner and Sardar Ahmad, a reporter for Agence France-Presse, were shot and killed in separate incidents in Kabul. Their deaths are the first recorded among journalists in Afghanistan since 2012.

Nai, an Afghan media advocacy organization, which has recorded violence committed against journalists in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001, notes 451 acts of violence between 2001 and 2013. Nai’s data project, which maps violence against journalists in the country, indicates an uptick in violence between 2010 and 2011.

In a memo to staff, AP President Gary Pruitt called Niedringhaus “spirited, intrepid and fearless, with a raucous laugh that we will always remember.” Pruitt noted that Niedringhaus is the 32nd AP reporter killed on the job since the agency’s founding in 1846.

Niedringhaus, who joined the AP in 2002, was part of a team of photographers who won 2005 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for their coverage of the Iraq War. She was the only woman among 11 photojournalists on the team.

Additional reporting by Aparna Alluri.

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Nicola Pring is a CJR intern