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Two award-winning war photographers killed in Libya

21 april 2011, 11:12
Tim Hetherington. Photo courtesy of www.ottawacitizen.com
Tim Hetherington. Photo courtesy of www.ottawacitizen.com
Tim Hetherington, an Oscar-nominated British film director and war photographer, and award-winning US photographer Chris Hondros were killed and two other Western journalists wounded Wednesday in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata, AFP reports.

Vanity Fair, for which Hetherington was a contributing photographer, confirmed the death of the 41-year-old who covered numerous conflicts and won the 2007 World Press Photo Award for his coverage of US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Hondros, also 41, suffered grave head injuries in the same mortar attack, said medics in the western port city of Misrata, and died hours later from his wounds, Getty Images confirmed to AFP.

Getty "is deeply saddened to confirm the death of Staff Photographer Chris Hondros who has died of injuries while covering events in Libya on April 20th," the agency said in a statement.

Two other colleagues, Guy Martin, a freelance photographer working for Panos, and photographer Michael Brown, working for Corbis, were also wounded in the attack, the agencies confirmed.

Hetherington and Hondros were the second and third journalist killed in Libya in its two-month-old conflict.

President Barack Obama's chief spokesman, Jay Carney, said the US leader was "saddened" to learn Hetherington had been killed, in a statement released before the news of Hondros' death.

"Journalists across the globe risk their lives each day to keep us informed, demand accountability from world leaders, and give a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard," Carney said.

The White House later released a statement after Hondros was confirmed dead from his injuries, saying his "tragic death underscores the need to protect journalists as they cover conflicts across the globe."

Hondros "never shied away from the front line having covered the world's major conflicts throughout his distinguished career and his work in Libya was no exception," Getty said in its statement.

"We are working to support his family and his fiancée as they receive this difficult news, and are preparing to bring Chris back to his family and friends in the United States. He will be sorely missed."

The Liverpool-born Hetherington produced and co-directed the acclaimed documentary "Restrepo," which won a Oscar nomination.

"He really wanted to get the pictures but at the same time I had the impression he was a very responsible person," Tiziana Prezzo, an Italian journalist who was in Misrata two days earlier, told AFP.

"He was one of the last people I met in Misrata. Now that he's not alive any more... it's shocking," she said.

Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer Hondros had covered many of the world's conflict zones over the last decade, working in Kosovo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the West Bank, Iraq, and Liberia, among other places.

In 2006 he won the prestigious Robert Capa Gold Medal photography award for his "exceptional courage and enterprise" in Iraq.

The four journalists were hit by mortar fire on Tripoli Street, the main thoroughfare and focus of fighting in Misrata, which has been under siege for almost two months by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's forces.

Hetherington's family said in a statement released to Vanity Fair that it was "with great sadness we learned that our son and brother" Hetherington was killed, saying "he will be forever missed."

On Tuesday, he sent his last post to his Twitter account, where he: "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."

A reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, Hondros' hometown newspaper in North Carolina -- where he joined as an intern, and later staff photographer before moving to New York to pursue his career -- was at the family home when the call came from Getty, delivering the news of his death.

"When it came to photography, he gave it everything," Paul Woolverton reported for the Observer. "You can tell with some people, who are really go-getters, that they are going to go far."

Journalists increasingly have come under fire in the ongoing conflict in Libya.

In the courtroom of Benghazi, seat of the opposition, photographs of missing journalists plaster the walls alongside a portrait of Ali Hassan al-Jaber, an Al-Jazeera cameraman killed on March 12 in an ambush near Benghazi.

Jaber was the first foreign journalist killed in Libya since the beginning of the uprising against Kadhafi on February 15. Numerous journalists have been detained and often mistreated by the Libyan regime.

A spokesman for the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) said that eight foreign journalists and six Libyan colleagues are currently being held by Kadhafi's forces.

A growing number of media companies are hiring security consultants for advice on their movements around the fluctuating front line between Kadhafi's loyalists and rebel forces.

By Dominique Soguel

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