At a solemn ceremony on Monday morning, the Newseum added the names of 72 reporters, photographers, broadcasters and news executives to its Journalists Memorial honoring those killed on the job.
The names were read aloud, each followed by the sound of a chime. Then a moment of silence. "The brave men and women whose names are etched on the Journalists Memorial remind us that little about a free press is actually free," James C. Duff, the Newseum's CEO, said in a statement. "Every day, journalists around the world scramble to bear witness, sometimes at great personal risk, to record the first draft of history."
Alejandro Junco, the president and CEO of Grupo Reforma, one of the largest media companies in Latin America, praised the journalists’ courage. “In particular we pay tribute to the reporter--he who is willing to stand when others will run, who will press on with questions when others have been cowed into silence,” Junco said. “We are here today to honor those who have paid the highest price any person can ever pay for pursuing the truth.”
The two deadliest countries for journalists in 2011 were Iraq and Pakistan, where 14 were killed, seven in each country. Five journalists were killed in both Libya and Chile; four in both Mexico and Somalia. Among those who died in Pakistan was Syed Saleem Shahzad, who disappeared after writing a story connecting the country’s navy to Al-Qaida. Shahzad, who worked for the Asia Times Online, was found dead two days after the story was published. "My brother was killed for writing the truth," his brother told a reporter.
The museum rededicates the memorial each year. Also among the names added on Monday were those of three photojournalists killed in attacks in Libya: freelance photojournalists Anton Hammerl, 41, and Tim Hetherington, 40, and Chris Hondros, 41, a photographer for Getty Images. Family members and friends of Hetherington and Hondros donated some personal items that the men were carrying when they were killed.
Hondros often prepared for dangerous assignments by carefully selecting books and music for his journey. “Chris would wander over to his book shelf to find the perfect novel to take with him,” Hondros's fiancée, Christina Piaia, told the crowd.
“Then he would spend hours creating the perfect play list of music,” to provide comfort in the war zones, she said. “While taking probably the most iconic images of our time, he had this tremendous other side inspired by beautiful words and music.” On his last assignment, Hondros carried Jean-Paul Sartre’s “The Existentialist Ethics” and “The New Temple Shakespeare.”
Michael Kamber, a freelance photojournalist and a friend of Hetherington, said that the photographer was dedicated to getting the story. “I think he felt like journalism was the bedrock of our democracy, of our society,” Kamber said. “He went out year after year. It wasn't as though he didn't know the risks. He had been injured in Afghanistan and West Africa. But he went back constantly. He wanted to go back.”
At one point Kamber tried to convince Hetherington not to go to Libya, but Hetherington insisted. “He felt like he could make a difference,” Kamber said. “He felt like he could get the information out. When he was killed, I wrestled for a long time thinking, ‘I wish he hadn't gone on that trip. I wish he hadn't gone out that day. I wish he hadn't gone down that street.’ But at the end of the day, he died for the information, for the dissemination of information, for getting information out there to the world. That is what he was passionate about.
“That is what he died for.”