UPDATED with SAG-AFTRA statements at bottom: NPR photographer David Gilkey and his interpreter Zabihullah Tamanna were killed Sunday in Afghanistan when the Army Humvee in which they were riding was hit by rocket-propelled grenades. Gilkey was 50 and Tamanna 38.
Secretary of State John Kerry said: “This attack is a grim reminder of the danger that continues to face the Afghan people, the dedication of Afghan national defense and security forces to securing their country, and of the courage of intrepid journalists — and their interpreters — who are trying to convey that important story to the rest of the world.” Read his full statement below.
Gilkey won numerous awards for his photojournalism, having covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Israel-Hamas strife in Gaza, the end of apartheid in South Africa, famine in Somalia and the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Of shooting the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he said: “It’s not like you put the camera to your face and therefore it makes what you’re seeing OK, but certainly you can put yourself in a zone. It’s hard, but you can’t get caught up in it and become part of it. You still need to maintain your state of mind that you are helping tell this story.” Watch Gilkey discuss his Haiti experience in a video montage of his photos above.
“As a man and as a photojournalist, David brought out the humanity of all those around him,” NPR VP News Michael Oreskes said in an email to staff. “He let us see the world and each other through his eyes.”
Tamanna worked as a photojournalist for the Chinese news agency Xinhua and later wrote for Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency. He wrote the regions big news stories but also the daily attacks and drone strikes that killed militants and civilians. NPR’s Philip Reeves, who brought Tamanna to the radio pubcaster, said, “He was a lovely man, with a great eye for a story and deep wisdom about his country.”
NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman, who along with producer Monika Evstatieva were in a separate vehicle in the convoy that was not hit, said that when the journalists’ bodies arrived by helicopter at Camp Shorab in Helmand Province, an honor guard of “dozens and dozens” of U.S. soldiers stood at attention and saluted.
Here is Kerry’s full statement about the deaths of Gilkey and Tamanna, followed by statements from SAG-AFTRA officers:
“I was saddened to learn today of the death of an NPR photographer, David Gilkey, and his colleague Zabihulla Tamanna, who were part of a crew reporting on Afghan forces in the southern part of the country.
“This attack is a grim reminder of the danger that continues to face the Afghan people, the dedication of Afghan national defense and security forces to securing their country, and of the courage of intrepid journalists — and their interpreters — who are trying to convey that important story to the rest of the world.
“David Gilkey certainly never shied away from conveying those stories, whether there in Afghanistan or Somalia, Haiti, Gaza, Iraq and dozens of other places around the world. He was more than a gifted photographer. He was a gifted storyteller, who understood the power of imagery to enhancing the power of understanding. He will be sorely missed.
“Teresa and I send our thoughts and prayers for these courageous individuals to their colleagues, friends and families.”
Here are two statements from SAG-AFTRA — first from President Gabrielle Carteris:
“David Gilkey was one of the most gifted photojournalists of his generation and his work brought the eyes of the world into every country he worked in, from Afghanistan to Iraq, and from Haiti to South Africa, where his images helped capture the fall of apartheid. It’s heartbreaking when we lose one of our own, and our thoughts go out to the families, friends and colleagues of David and his interpreter Zabihullah Tamanna, who left behind a wife and three young children.”
And from National Executive Director David White:
“We are deeply saddened by this senseless loss, and extend our deepest condolences to David and Zabihullah’s loved ones. It’s an honor for SAG-AFTRA to represent the working journalists and media professionals at NPR who do some of the most challenging work in their field in conflict zones around the world. Their courage and devotion to getting the story helps us all be informed citizens. This devastating loss reminds us that this commitment can come at a steep cost.”