Journalists pay tribute to their AP colleagues who were shot in Afghanistan

During their long and decorated service in the world’s war zones, the AP’s Kathy Gannon and Anja Niedringhaus won many admirers among their colleagues. The two journalists were shot Friday by an Afghan policeman while they sat in a car on an assignment near Khost, a province along the Pakistani border in eastern Afghanistan. Neidringhaus, a 48-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning German photographer, died in the attack. Gannon, 60, who is from Canada and spent decades in the region, was wounded and is reportedly in stable condition.

Here are some recollections from their colleagues from around the world.

Andrea Bruce, a photographer with the NOOR agency and a former Washington Post staffer, who has spent years in the Middle East.

“My memories of Anja are mostly from sharing the complexities of wearing an abaya or burqa or body armor in Iraq or Afghanistan. ... always laughing and joking. Or relaxing with our colleagues after a long day. She always made me feel welcome and loved. There aren't many female photographers covering war ... I looked up to her.

“But to speak of Anja in the context of female photographers doesn’t do her justice. She was one of the many that shattered stereotypes and clichés for women in this profession — one of the toughest, bravest photographers in the world. Always pushing to the frontline. Always with a smile that involved every feature of her face. She was breathless and endlessly excited about what we do.

“For me, her death has brought a sadness that has now hardened to anger. Suffocating. Bringing me much closer to a reaction we’ve photographed so often during war.”

Adam Goldman, a national security reporter at The Washington Post, who formerly worked with the Associated Press:

“We’ve worked on many stories together,” he said of Gannon. “She’s fearless and relentless. Kathy has dedicated much of her life to covering Afghanistan. She’ll be back. Nobody can keep her down.”

Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the Associated Press, in a memo to her staff:

“Kathy is a resilient soul, upbeat and tough all in the same package. She loves Afghanistan, a place she has covered for three decades. Those of you fortunate enough to have spent time with Kathy know the sound of that husky voice as she tells stories that always end with her looking innocently wide-eyed, as if she cannot believe the adventures she has just described. You also know how much Pakistan and Afghanistan are a part of her heart.

“She and Anja were a great team, comrades in coverage and good cooking and good friendship ... the first journalists to embed with the Afghan National Army ... brilliant chroniclers of the people and events and wonderful human beings.

“Anja’s death is a shattering loss for the AP family and for the many people around the world who knew and loved her. Much has been said already about her joyful nature and that amazing laugh. She was magical ... people just wanted to be around her. She made everything brighter, more fun, more alive.

“Which is not to say that Anja didn’t have a serious side. Woe be unto you if you were sloppy or late or were giving anything but 110 percent; she’d snap you back into line right then and there. Then have you laughing about something 15 minutes later.”

Jason Straziuso, East Africa bureau chief for the Associated Press, who formerly worked in Kabul:

“Even though I was in charge of the AP Kabul bureau from 2006-09, Kathy was still the bureau Godfather, in this case Godmother – the connected, ridiculously brave reporter who knows more than you. She and Anja stepped deeper into Afghanistan than most, all to tell the important and hard-to-get stories. This tragedy should also call attention to something news readers may not realize. The best Afghanistan reporting in U.S. newspapers the last decade has come from women: Carlotta Gall at the New York Times, Pam Constable at The Washington Post, and Kathy Gannon/Anja Niedringhaus at AP.”

Ines Pohl, editor of die tageszeitung, a German newspaper: “When I got my Nieman fellowship [at Harvard University], Anja, a fellow herself, reached out to me with a very warm and supportive e-mail offering me any help I might need. That set the tone for our relationship. Even in her brutal and hateful work environment she kept her warmth and love for human beings. So many war reporters get cynical over the years. She kept her respect for the people and countries she reported on, something you can see in her work. She was such an important eye for Germans who have such a complicated relationship to our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. She brought the beauty of the people and the country to Germany. What a loss. My thoughts reach out to her family and friends.”

Heidi Vogt, an East Africa correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, who formerly worked in Kabul with the Associated Press: “Kathy and Anja made an unstoppable force in the AP Kabul bureau — two of the organization’s bravest and most seasoned female journalists determined to tell the story from the ground. They took a lot of risks together — traveling from Pakistan to Afghanistan over land, embedding with the Afghan army well before that was a common thing to do, going out to report in some of the country’s most dangerous provinces. But they always thought it through and knew why they were taking those risks.They were an amazing team and it’s so sad that Anja is gone. Just hoping Kathy pulls through.”

Joshua Partlow is The Post’s bureau chief in Mexico. He has served previously as the bureau chief in Kabul and as a correspondent in Brazil and Iraq.
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