AP Photographer Killed And Reporter Wounded As Attacks On Journalists Rise In Afghanistan

AP Photographer Killed As Attacks On Journalists Rise In Afghanistan

NEW YORK -- Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed and reporter Kathy Gannon was wounded Friday in Afghanistan, marking the third deadly attack on journalists in the country over the past month.

An Afghan policemen opened fire on the journalists while they were in eastern Afghanistan covering the upcoming presidential election, according to the AP. Gannon, a veteran correspondent and former Afghanistan bureau chief, is in stable condition.

Gary Pruitt, the AP’s president and CEO, informed staff Friday morning that the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer was killed.

“Those of you who worked with Anja know what a life force she was: spirited, intrepid and fearless, with a raucous laugh that we will always remember,” Pruitt wrote, adding that Niedringhaus was “the 32nd AP staffer to give their life in pursuit of the news since AP was founded in 1846.”

The targeting of AP journalists is the third deadly attack on the press in less than a month and comes as security fears mount for foreigners ahead of Afghanistan's presidential election.

The New York Times reported last week that an Afghan election once drew "foreigners to Kabul like flies to honey, with incoming flights full of consultants, international monitors, diplomats and journalists.”

“With the possible exception of journalists,” the Times continued, “foreigners have been leaving Afghanistan like never before during an election period after a series of attacks on foreign targets and the commission running the vote.”

Journalists remaining in the country have been increasingly targeted.

Last month, Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot and killed in a Kabul neighborhood “populated by Western non-governmental organizations, embassies and journalists,” according to the Washington Post.

AFP reporter Sardar Ahmad, along with his wife and two children, were killed less than two weeks later in a Taliban attack on the luxury Serena hotel in Kabul. The horrific attack prompted some Afghan journalists to call for a boycott of Taliban coverage.

On Friday, an Afghan police commander approached the journalists' car and shouted "Allahu Akbar" -- God is Great -- before shooting, according to the AP. He was quickly arrested.

The string of attacks on journalists marks a steep rise from 2013, a year in which Syria was the deadliest country for members of the press. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, here were no journalists killed last year in Afghanistan.

Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, said in a statement Friday that "both women, widely experienced in conflict zones, are recognized for their decades of fearless reporting.

"As pre-election violence mounts," he continued, "Afghanistan has become a dangerous assignment on par with the height of the Iraq war or the current situation in Syria."

Read AP CEO Gary Pruitt’s memo to staff below:

AP Staff:

It is with grief and great sadness that I let you know that photographer Anja Niedringhaus has been killed while working in Afghanistan. Anja and Kathy Gannon, regional correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, were in Khost covering the run-up to the presidential elections in Afghanistan when, it appears, they were targeted and attacked. Kathy survived, but Anja died. Kathy is being treated at a hospital.

Those of you who worked with Anja know what a life force she was: spirited, intrepid and fearless, with a raucous laugh that we will always remember. Based in Geneva, she joined AP in 2002, and worked throughout the Middle East as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. She was one of a team of 11 AP photographers, and the only woman, to win the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for coverage of Iraq. That same year, she was awarded the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award. In 2006, she was awarded a Neiman fellowship to Harvard University.

Anja is the 32nd AP staffer to give their life in pursuit of the news since AP was founded in 1846. As conflict spreads throughout regions of the world, journalism has become more dangerous. Where once reporters and photographers were seen as the impartial eyes and ears of crucial information, today they are often targets. AP takes the security of its staff very seriously, equipping them with protective gear and intensive training. Yet even that is sometimes not enough.

This is a profession of the brave and the passionate, those committed to the mission of bringing to the world information that is fair, accurate and important. Anja Niedringhaus met that definition in every way. We will miss her terribly.

We will provide more information as it becomes available.

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