Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Note on the Passing of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros

By now, the news of the killing of journalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros by the forces Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in the besieged city of Misrata has spread around the world. Hetherington was the co-director of the film Restrepo, which chronicled a year spent embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the Korengal valley in Afghanistan, and Hondros was a photographer of great distinction whose work I had long admired.

I didn't know either man personally, though, the world of international reportage being as small as it is in these days of shrinking new coverage, we had quite a number of friends in common.

But, although journalists covering this ground quickly make their peace with the idea that one day they would go out and it might be their last, and though I am relatively sure that both men would point out the irony that their passing should attract so much attention after the world has sat back for weeks and let the people of Misrata get slaughtered, it is appropriate to take a moment and reflect on their loss.

Without the work of reporters like Hetherington, who provided us with one of the most important portraits of the Afghanistan conflict, and Hondros, whose 2003 photos of the civil war in Liberia remain some of the best war photography I have ever seen, the rest of the "developed" world would be able to suck its collective thumbs, stuff its face and drive its SUVs with nary a thought for people in the kinds of desperate circumstances both men documented.

A moment of mourning, both for the men themselves and for all the important stories that will not be told because of one more deluded dictator.
Perhaps, if there is any silver lining, this terrible incident will help wake the world and its leaders up to the reality of what is happening to the people of Misrata, which has been laid siege to by Gaddafi's forces for nearly two months and witnessed hundreds of people being killed.

Rest in peace, colleagues.

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