Hetherington, Hondros, and the risks journalists take
The two photojournalists Hetherington and Hondros, both men at the top of their craft, were among 10 people killed in the western Libyan city of Misurata yesterday.
Tim Hetherington, a photojournalist and director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Restrepo, and Chris Hondros, an award-winning photographer, were killed in a mortar strike yesterday in the besieged Libyan city of Misurata.Skip to next paragraph
Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.
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Also killed in the city yesterday were seven local civilians and a Ukrainian doctor.
Both Mr. Hetherington and Mr. Hondros dedicated their adult lives to recording conflict.
Hetherington spent a year in Afghanistan's Korengal valley, and his work there formed the basis of "Restrepo," which he made with the journalist Sebastian Junger. It's without a doubt the finest documentary about the US military effort in Afghanistan, and one of the finest films about America at war, period.
Hondros was a senior photographer for Getty Images who'd covered more than a half-dozen conflicts, most notably Iraq, where his arresting images earned him the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa award in 2005.
I knew both men only slightly. The Getty Images bureau in Baghdad was at the Hamra Hotel, where the Monitor was based for the first few years of the Iraq war. I saw Hondros occasionally during those days. As for Hetherington, I chatted with him just a few weeks ago over coffee at the Uzu Hotel in Libya's second-largest city of Benghazi.
I left Benghazi over a week ago now, and in the days before I left photographers were growing nervous about the increasing volume and lethality of indirect fire from Qaddafi's troops. Was trying to make a great picture of an explosion, or a dying rebel's last moments, really worth the risk?
As a writer, I go to dangerous places, but usually limit my time at the front lines. In Libya, I went up to the fighting to have a sniff from time to time, but high-tailed it whenever mortar fire threatened to get in range. For the photographers, the luxury of piecing together what happened by visiting hospitals and interviewing survivors just isn't there. Every time I pulled back from the fighting in towns like Ras Lanuf, Brega, and Ajdabiya in eastern Libya, there were photographers in my rear-view mirror.
Take the morning of March 19: the night before the UN Security Council had passed resolution 1973, extending a no-fly zone over Libya, and touched off a party of epic proportions in Benghazi that involved the firing of thousands upon thousands of anti-aircraft and and rifle fire over the city (I hesitated to go out and cover the celebration, for fear of falling bullets). That Saturday morning, Benghazi was filled with rumors that Qaddafi's tanks and infantry were moving into the city, and tens of thousands of Benghazi's residents were fleeing.