Published:  02:04 AM, 19 July 2021

Danish Siddiqui: A Journalist Killed in the Line of Fire


Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Danish Siddiqui, who worked for the Reuters news agency based out of India, was killed on Friday while on assignment in southern Afghanistan after coming under fire by Taliban militiamen.Siddiqui, who was 38 years old, had been embedded with Afghan special forces in southern Kandahar province when he was killed along with a senior Afghan officer, Reuters reports.

"We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region," Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement. "Danish was an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague. Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time."

Siddiqui was reporting from Afghanistan as U.S. forces complete their withdrawal, ordered by President Biden to wrap up by Sept. 11. As the U.S. leaves, the Taliban - long held at bay by American might - have been rapidly capturing territory, leading to concern that the Afghan government could collapse.

Siddiqui reported to his editors earlier on Friday that he had sustained a shrapnel wound to the arm during a clash between Afghan troops and the Taliban at the town of Spin Boldak, but that he had been treated for the injury, according to Reuters. Later, as he was interviewing local shopkeepers, the Taliban attacked again, the news agency said, quoting an Afghan commander.

Siddiqui is best known for his work covering the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, for which he and his co-workers won journalism's top prize in 2018. The Pulitzer board cited the "shocking photographs that exposed the world to the violence Rohingya refugees faced in fleeing Myanmar."

In a statement on Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was "deeply saddened with the shocking reports" of Siddiqui's death. Ghani extended condolences to the journalist's family.Siddiqui had been a Reuters photographer since 2010. In addition to his work covering the Rohingya and Afghanistan, he also shot pictures for the news agency during the war in Iraq, the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests of 2019-2020 and the deadly earthquakes in Nepal in 2015.

In recent months, Siddiqui chronicled a growing COVID-19 wave that swept through India, killing thousands.The assignment was not without controversy, as some in India expressed outrage over photos showing mass cremations of those who died from the disease.Saad Mohseni, the CEO of Afghanistan's MOBY Group, the largest media company in the country, described Siddiqui as "an extremely brave and talented journalist" and said his death "tragically demonstrates the dangers that journalists in Afghanistan face for doing their jobs."
Mohseni said that Afghan journalists were being killed or threatened.

"Despite these dangers, they continue to do their work, reporting on the fighting that is consuming the country, on the human rights violations that are proliferating, and on the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Afghanistan," he said.According to a United Nations report this year, 33 journalists were killed in Afghanistan between 2018 and 2021.

Danish Siddiqui (19 May 1980 - 16 July 2021) was an Indian photojournalist based in Mumbai. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 as part of the photography staff of Reuters. In 2021, he was shot dead while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban forces near a border crossing with Pakistan.Siddiqui did his schooling at Fr. Agnel School in South New Delhi. He graduated with a degree in Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. He went on to pursue a degree in Mass Communication from the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre at Jamia in 2007.

Siddiqui started his career as a television news correspondent. He switched to photojournalism and joined the international news agency Reuters as an intern in 2010. Siddiqui had since covered the Battle of Mosul (2016-17), the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, the refugee crisis arising from the Rohingya genocide, the 2019-2020 Hong Kong protests, the 2020 Delhi Riots and the COVID-19 pandemic among other stories in South Asia, Middle East and Europe.

In 2018, he became the first Indian alongside colleague Adnan Abidi to win the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography as part of the Photography staff of Reuters for documenting the Rohingya Refugee Crisis. A photograph he captured during the 2020 Delhi Riots was featured as one of the defining photographs of 2020 by Reuters. Another photograph depicting a right wing activist firing a pistol at protesters while the police look on became evidence of "the emboldening of Hindu nationalists" in the wake of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. He used to head the Reuters Pictures team in India.

In recent months, Siddiqui chronicled a growing COVID-19 wave that swept through India, killing thousands. The assignment was not without controversy, as some in India expressed outrage over photos showing mass cremations of those who died from the disease.Siddiqui was killed alongside a senior Afghan officer while covering fighting between Afghan Special troops and Taliban fighters in Spin Buldak, Kandahar, on 16 July 2021. An Afghan official stated that he was killed in a Taliban crossfire.

Following his death, several figures within the U.S. government condemned the killing, including US Department of State Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter who called it "... A tremendous loss...".Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that "India strongly condemns the killing of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Danish Siddiqui in Afghanistan" at an event of the United Nations Security Council. Indian Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur also paid condolence.

  The Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani expressed shock over his death. Meanwhile the Taliban denied their role in the killing and issued apology for Danish's death. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson expressed that "We are sorry for Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui's death" and "We do not know how he died.Pulitzer Prize-winning Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui has been killed in Afghanistan, said the country's ambassador in Delhi.

The 41-year-old, who was chief photographer for Reuters news agency in India, was on assignment when he died. He was embedded with a convoy of Afghan forces that was ambushed by Taliban militants near a key border post with Pakistan, according to reports.It is unclear how many others died in the attack.Afghanistan's ambassador to India, Farid Mamundzay, said he was deeply disturbed by the news of "the killing of a friend".

Based out of Mumbai, Siddiqui worked with Reuters for more than a decade.In 2018, he won the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography. He won it alongside colleague Adnan Abidi and five others for their work documenting the violence faced by Myanmar's minority Rohingya community.Recently, his photos of mass funerals held at the peak of India's devastating second wave went viral and won him global praise and recognition.

"While I enjoy covering news stories - from business to politics to sports - what I enjoy most is capturing the human face of a breaking story," Siddiqui had told Reuters.Siddiqui was covering the clashes in Kandahar region, as the US withdraws its forces from Afghanistan ahead of an 11 September deadline set by President Joe Biden.

The Taliban - a fundamentalist Islamic militia - controlled Afghanistan from the mid-90s until the US invasion in 2001. The group has been accused of grave human rights and cultural abuses.With foreign troops withdrawing after 20 years, the Taliban are rapidly retaking territory across the country, sparking fears of a potential civil war.


The writer is a freelancer and a columnist.



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