Washington: Award-winning American journalist David Gilkey and his translator were killed while traveling with an Afghan army unit that came under fire in southern
Helmand province, in a sign of just how dangerous the conflict remains for the media trying to cover it. The translator was identified as Zabihullah Tamanna, 38. Two other National Public Radio journalists traveling with Gilkey in a separate vehicle, reporter Tom Bowman and producer Monika Evstatieva, were unharmed.
NPR said the vehicle in which Gilkey, 50, and his translator were traveling was struck by shellfire near the town of Marjah yesterday. A Taliban hotbed, the opium-rich province of Helmand is almost entirely under the control of insurgents.
“David has been covering war and conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. He was devoted to helping the public see these wars and the people caught up in them. He died pursuing that commitment,” said Michael Oreskes, NPR’s senior vice president of news and editorial director.
“As a man and as a photojournalist, David brought out the humanity of all those around him. He let us see the world and each other through his eyes.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a press freedom group, said that prior to the deaths of Gilkey and Tamanna, 24 journalists and one media worker have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001 US-led invasion. Reports said Gilkey was the first non-military American journalist killed since the start of the conflict.
“Even though much of the world’s attention has shifted away, let no one doubt that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place for journalists – local and foreign – working to cover that protracted conflict,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.
“We are deeply saddened by the deaths of Zabihullah Tamanna and David Gilkey. There are too many journalists who have given their lives to tell the Afghan story.”
Gilkey’s colleagues responded with shock at the news of his sudden death, the first time in NPR’s 46-year history that it has lost a journalist on a reporting assignment.
Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR’s South America correspondent who previously served as Iraq and Middle East bureau chief, said on Twitter: “We honor our dead. We remember them. We know that their work lives on. It’s not enough though. We mourn. #davidgilkey#ZabihullahZamanna.”
“Where to begin. This is an unimaginable loss. David Gilkey was one of our greatest journalists,” tweeted “All Things Considered” co-host Audie Cornish.