By Global Journalist Staff Posted Jan 7 2009
Abdul Samad Rohani
Abdul Samad Rohani was only 25 when he died, but the people of Helmand will remember his life as a dedicated reporter for many years to come. In one of the centers of the Taliban insurgency, he reported in the Pastho language and provided vital information for the BBC’s English-language staff there.
“Rohani knew Helmand better than anyone I had ever met,” colleague Bilal Sarwary said in a BBC tribute. “His compassion drove him to travel into Taliban-controlled areas to report about the lives of the people there.”
In addition to his influential journalism, Rohani was also a locally-renowned poet.
“He had a way with words and became the voice of the people of Helmand,” Sarwary said.
Rohani’s brave voice would eventually lead to his death. Authorities believe his murder June 8 was carried out by the Taliban in an attempt to intimidate journalists.
“He dedicated his life and time towards telling the truth and helping Afghanistan,” Sarwary said.
TV journalist Abdulla Alishayev, known in other parts of the world as Telman Alishayev, was gunned down while sitting in his car Sept. 2. He sustained fatal head and shoulder wounds after two unidentified men approached the car with a pistol. The attack occurred in Dagestan, a republic in Russia’s North Caucasus region. He was taken to a hospital in Dagestan’s capital city Makhachkala where he died early the next day.
Alishayev hosted the popular religious and educational program Peace to Your Home on TV-Chirkei, an Islamic station. He was also one of the producers of a critical documentary titled Ordinary Wahhabism about the strict form of Sunni Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia.
Alexander Klimchuk, 27, had just begun to impact the world of photojournalism in Georgia when he was killed covering the conflict in South Ossetia.
Klimchuk dedicated his life to his profession, giving a voice to Geogrians through journalism.
Before and during his journalism studies at the State University of Georgia, Klimchuk wrote for Russian newspapers Komsomolskaya Pravda and Moskovski Komsomolets. After receiving a degree in journalism, Klimchuk began what became his life work and passion: photography.
Klimchuk became founder and owner of Georgia’s independent photo agency, Caucasus Images. Profits from the agency are used to support education of photographers and photography projects in the Caucasus region.
Although he lived his entire life in Tbilisi, Georgia, Klimchuk’s photos were seen around the world. Winner of the Best of Photojournalism category for the 2007 Russian Press Photo contest, his photographs have been published in Newsweek, The New York Time, Le Monde and others.
Klimchuk worked closely with Polaris Images, producing photojournalism and feature work and covering major stories worldwide, giving audiences across the world a clearer picture of life in Georgia.
According to Caucasus-images.com, Klimchuk was “passionately dedicated to his profession.”
Ashok Sodhi spent 26 years working as a journalist for the English-language paper Daily Excelsior in Jammu City, India. He began his career as a proofreader, went on to cover crime and hospital beats for the newspaper and eventually began taking pictures. Photojournalism was still new to Jammu City when Sodhi started out, but by the time of his death, the 45 year old had risen to the rank of a highly-respected chief photographer.
Sodhi was killed May 11 while photographing an armed confrontation between militant and security forces in the Samba district of Indian-controlled Kashmir. He’d moved closer to capture better coverage of the confrontation when a stray bullet hit him.
After his death, Sodhi was commemorated in a series of tributes published in the Daily Excelsior. Friends and colleagues described him as a man who had willingly placed himself in harm’s way on more than one occasion in order to capture photographs of regional conflicts. Jammu City is located close to the region of Kashmir, a long-disputed territory divided among Pakistan, India and China, and violence has erupted in the area regularly as separatist groups battle for independence or union with Pakistan.
Nishikant Khajuria, a former coworker, recalled how he and Sodhi had reported on similar encounters together in the past. He remembered Sodhi as a man who never shied away from getting close to danger zones when taking pictures. In 1990, when a flood of Kashmiri Pandit refugees poured into the area from the nearby Kashmir Valley, Sodhi visited the camps to shoot photographs of them.
Sodhi was also remembered as a well-known and well-loved citizen of Jammu City who regularly appeared at social events and took pleasure in mentoring newcomers to the profession.
“He was always ready to help young photographers and even reporters looking to cut their teeth in the field of journalism,” reporter Abhishek Behl wrote of Sodhi. Behl also described him as a “thoroughbred professional” who was “the darling of the city’s political and civil society.”
Others recalled his dedication to journalism and his strong work ethic.
“Ashok was disciplined and never complained,” wrote S. D. Rohmetra, the owner and editor-in-chief of Daily Excelsior.
Rajesh Bhat, who worked with Sodhi at the Daily Excelsior, described his pictures as “imaginative and professional,” and recalled Sodhi’s passion for photographing eclipses and other celestial events.
Sodhi was further honored in a series of tributes published by journalists around the world. His life was commemorated with statements and messages from the Press Club of India, the Press Council of India and a variety of journalists and social and political leaders. Financial help for his bereaved family also poured in, and Sodhi was honored at the 2008 Stockholm Journalists’ Memorial.
Sodhi is just one of 12 journalists killed in the region since civil war broke out in 1989, according to CPJ.
Sodhi leaves behind a wife and one daughter. Out of gratitude for his longtime service to the Daily Excelsior, Rohmetra has pledged a lifetime pension for Sodhi’s widow.
Many have called him a martyr for the cause of journalistic freedom, and hope that his legacy of courage will live on.
“Martyrs never die,” wrote Balraj Puri of the News Agency of Kashmir.
“His sacrifice strengthens our resolve to take on the evil of terrorism with greater conviction and determination,” Rohmetra wrote. “This will be our tribute to his memory.”
Carlos Quispe was a journalism student at La Paz’s Universidad Mayor de San Andrés. He worked as an intern at Radio Municipal, the only radio station in Pucarani, about 40 kilometers west of La Paz.
The station provided information on the government as well as community news. Quispe delivered a daily noontime news report and also hosted a nightly music program. Radio Municipal was attacked March 27 by protest groups opposing Mayor Alejandro Mamani; Quispe often interviewed him concerning government projects. After the attacks, the station’s facilities were left in ruins and it has been off the air since Quispe’s death.
Serving over 25 years in journalism, Eliecer Santamaria contributed half of his life to the career he loved. His photos and videos were published throughout major media in Panama. Since 2001 he had worked in the newspaper El Siglo and was devoted to covering crime stories.
Santamaria, 51, was attacked while on assignment covering a story about gangs exchanging gunfire in the capital, according to reports. He died April 8 in a hospital from the resulting stabbing wound on the left side of his chest.
“Santa,” as he was known to his friends, was a jovial man who spent his life behind a camera or the steering wheel of his cab, according to La Estrella de Panama. After the stabbing, a bystander heard his last words: “My camera is under the seat, my camera, my camera…”
“To those who knew him we have the memory of his professionalism in moments of work and his sense of humor,” wrote Tito Herrera, a photographer and friend of Santamaria's.
Fadel Shana, 23, was a cameraman for Reuters for over three years. He was killed while filming in the Gaza Strip on April 16. While some Israeli officials issued statements that the risk of death came with reporting in such a violent region, that risk never deterred Shana. In 2006, Shana was injured in the line of duty when an Israeli aircraft fired on a Reuters vehicle. He remained a member of the Reuters team.
Shana was popular among the 15-member Reuters news team in the Gaza Strip. Support for Shana was evident when hundreds flocked to the hospital where Shana's body was taken, according to a Reuters blog.
“He is a good guy, friendly, smart work and responsible man,” an old friend remembers.
Khim Sambo, 47, died July 11. Sambo and his 21-year-old son Khat Sarinpheata were shot dead on the streets of Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. Sambo used to contribute articles under a pseudonym to the Khmer Conscience, a Cambodian-language newspaper affiliated with the major opposition Sam Rainsy Party.
Family members had gathered at a mourning ceremony the day after the attack, to express their grief as well as their anger at the lack of transparency in the investigation of the deaths.
“It is really unjust for the victim. The relatives of the victims never receive any information on how [the investigation] is going,” Khim Laurent, Sambo's brother told the Phnom Penh Post.
Sambo had been outspoken on topics like corruption and nepotism in the ruling Cambodia People's Party. Less than two weeks before his murder, Sambo wrote of a scandal involving a “senior police official,” “one of the country's most dangerous men,” who was not named but was easily identifiable.
Sambo was not expecting such danger as he didn't identify the officer by name, a source said. Many media practitioners in Columbia are alarmed after his death and feel concerned about their own safety. The FBI-assisted investigation is ongoing.
Magomed Yevloyev, founder and owner of the independent news Web site Ingushetiya.ru, died Aug. 31 after being shot while in police custody. Yevloyev was detained by police after disembarking a flight from his home in Moscow to Narzan, capital city of the volatile North Caucasus region Ingushetia. Yevloyev was shot during transport to an Interior Ministry office, and died in a Narzan hospital later that day.
Police claim Yevloyev resisted arrest and was shot trying to take a gun from one of the officers. However, several friends who met him at the airport and followed the police vehicle said government agents deliberately shot Yevloyev and left him by the side of the road.
Yevloyev was a vocal critic of the region’s Kremlin-backed government, which led to numerous attempts to shut down his Web site, including a lawsuit from Ingush President Murat Zyazikov earlier in the year. The site was shuttered and all access blocked in June on charges of spreading “extremist content,” a decision upheld by a Moscow court in August, but the Web site moved its servers to the U.S. and continued publishing.
At least 1,000 people attended the Sept. 1 funeral outside Narzan. A protest rally began when the burial procession stopped in the city; local opposition leaders gave impromptu speeches accusing the government of Yevloyev’s murder.
Memorial, a human rights, research and education center based in Moscow, issued a statement the same day calling the journalist’s death “yet another act of state terror.”
Shortly after Yevloyev’s death, Moscow investigators told media they had launched a preliminary investigation into the incident, but thus far no reports of arrests in the case have surfaced. Authorities categorized the death as “murder by negligence.”
Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila
Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila was an anthropologist, indigenous rights activist and author of numerous works on the indigenous Amuzgo people of southern Guerrero state in Mexico. For more than 20 years he had been involved in cultural projects to enrich the lives of indigenous people in the community, including establishing the first Amuzgo community library.
Several days before his death, between July 23 and 25, Gutiérrez was filming “La Danza del Tigre” (The Dance of the Tiger), about indigenous cultures and traditions when he documented alleged human rights violations against the staff of Radio Ñomndaa (also know as La Palabra del Agua/ Word of the Water). He is thought to have angered authorities by filming members of the Federal Investigations Agency while they were conducting a raid on the radio station.
Journalist Mohammed Muslimuddin worked to expose India's criminal underground and political corruption in the central state of Assam. He served as a correspondent for the daily newspaper Asomiya Pratidin and was president of the Morajhar Press Club. His investigations uncovered illicit drug cartels and criminal activities that implicated influential local figures and politicians.
Muslimuddin's investigations are believed to be the motive behind his brutal murder April 1. While riding his bicycle home, six assailants attacked the journalist with sharp weapons inflicting fatal wounds to his head, chest, stomach and back. He died en route to medical treatment. Three individuals were arrested April 4 in connection with the killing, according to news reports.
Muslimuddin's death sparked protests by journalists throughout the state to call attention to the murder. Twenty media professionals have been killed in the area since 1987 and many of the murders remain unsolved. India's Northeast Media Forum is urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to work to ensure safety for journalists inside the region. Many journalists in the area lack insurance and receive low salaries in addition to risks of bodily harm from the subjects of their investigations.
Graduating in 2007 from Xinjiang University, Pan Fengqin had just started her career at a Turpan TV station. She died in a March explosion while covering the disposal of fireworks in the Gobi desert.
For her college classmates, Fengqin was a delight: “She is a very pretty girl… To the professors, she had always been a persistant student with outstanding academic achievements; to the fellow students, she was an easygoing and warm-hearted friend; to her parents, she was an obedient daughter,” reporter Zhao Hongmei wrote.
Fengqin was from Hubei Province in central China. In 2003 she left home to pursue her college education in Xinjiang, the northwest part of the country.
Yan Yi, a friend of Fengqin’s wrote in an online forum: “It is hard to believe something happen to one of my old classmates…in my memory, she is still (the girl) with short hair and smiley eyes, whenever you see her face, she looks like smiling… (her passing) reminds us to cherish every day of our lives and everyone around us… ”
Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha
Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha came to the profession of journalism late in life. He spent most of his career working as an accountant, but switched to a job in the newspaper industry in 2006, following in the path of his son-in-law, editor of Highway Weekly.
By the time of his death, 57-year-old Shrestha had become the publisher of Highway Weekly and New Season, two local weeklies published in the southern city of Birgunj, a Nepali town close to the Indian border where Shrestha lived with his family.
Shrestha was murdered the evening of Jan. 12. He was with his brother just a few hundred meters from his home, when a motorcycle carrying two men sped by. One of the men fired at Shrestha and hit him in the back. Shrestha died a few hours later while undergoing treatment at Narayani Sub-regional Hospital.
A man claiming to be a local representative for the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha militia later called local reporters to claim responsibility for the murder. He explained that Shrestha had been killed for being a “Pahadi journalist,” meaning that he came from the hill region and was not a member of the southern plains population, whom the militia aims to defend. According to his son-in-law, Shrestha hadn’t received any threats prior to the attack.
Various organizations released statements in response to Shrestha’s murder.
“Shrestha’s murder tragically highlights the violence affecting civilians, including journalists, as a result of the ethnic tension in southern Nepal,” the Press Freedom Organisation said. “Hope of defusing the tension this year seems to be evaporating in the face of the inability of the authorities to curb the repeated violence.”
Shrestha is survived by a wife, a son and three daughters.
Sri Lankan TV journalist Rashmi Mohamed, 31, worked as a provincial correspondent for Sirasa TV and MTV Anuradhapura. At the time of his death, the 31-year-old journalist had been working for Sirasa TV since 2001, when he earned a diploma in video journalism, one of his colleagues told RWB.
Mohamed was killed in a suicide bombing the morning of Oct. 6 in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. He was covering the opening ceremony of the new office of Sri Lanka’s United National Party when an unidentified member of the crowd detonated an explosive device.
Mohamed was transported to Anuradhapura Hospital in the aftermath of the explosion but soon succumbed to his injuries. The blast is estimated to have killed at least 27 others, including Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera, leader of the Opposition of the North Central Provincial Council, and several party officials, RWB reports. More than 80 others were injured.
Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the bombing has been blamed on the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan separatist group that aims to wrest control of the country from the Sinhalese ethnic majority in order to create an independent Tamil state. The Tamil Tigers have been carrying out similar attacks against military officials and politicians for the past three decades. Authorities believe the video footage Mohamed shot before the bomb was detonated might offer some clue as to the identity of the suicide bomber.
A variety of media organizations expressed sympathy and outrage at news of Mohamed’s death and five Sri Lankan journalists’ organizations condemned the attack as a “crime against humanity.”
Sarwa Abdul-Wahab ended life as she had lived it: Defiant. Abdul-Wahab was returning home from the market with her mother on May 4 when their taxi was ambushed by two unidentified men. The men dragged her outside the car and attempted to abduct her while she struggled and screamed. Iraqi news reports claim Abdul-Wahab shouted she would rather die than be taken. Her resistance ended with two gunshot wounds.
Abdul-Wahab, 36, was a female journalist and lawyer inside Iraq where she practiced her role as truth guardian not only in the press but also in the courtroom defending press rights. She worked in Mosul, supporting her family and reporting for several local newspapers and outlets including the Kurdistan Reporters News Agency and the Salaheddin satellite television station where she appeared on TV as the only female reporter from Mosul.
She was proud of her accomplishments as a lawyer and journalist and wrote many critical pieces against the Iraqi insurgency. But her identity as an accomplished and independent woman made her a prime target in Iraq where violence against female journalists, professionals, activists and everyday women are on the rise.
A death threat arrived on Abdul-Wahab’s doorstep when she returned from Damascus in December 2006, while on a photojournalism project for female Iraqi journalists. The note was written on a piece of paper and was similar to others she had already received.
Maysoon Pachachi, a friend Abdul-Wahab made while in Damascus, recalled in an open letter featured on the news blog womensgrid.com the Iraqi journalist’s worries and reaction to the threats.
“Look what they've written,” Abdul-Wahab said to Pachachi. “They can't even spell, and here they're supposed to be quoting the Koran, but it's a misquote. They've got it wrong.”
Pachachi went on to remember her friend as an unyielding woman who was unwilling to give up her work and succumb to threats. A fundraiser trust is being compiled in honor of Abdul-Wahab to support her mother, brother and sister.
Stan Storimans, a Dutch cameraman for RTL Nieuws, had planned to publish a book about his 20 years of reporting in hotspots like Sri Lanka, Congo, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Those plans were stopped short when he was killed during the bombing of the Gori in Georgia
“He was the best colleague that I had,” said friend and colleague Bekijk de Beelden.
Storimans began working with RTL in 1995, and was well respected among his audience in the Netherlands.
“My thoughts go out to Mr. Storimans’ family, especially his wife and two children,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen. She remembered Storimans as a “hardworking professional and an exceptionally sympathetic man.”