GUEST BLOG—By Myron Belkind and Donna Leinwand Leger of the National Press Club, Washington DC.--The National Press Club joins with journalists around the world as we mourn the death in Afghanistan of veteran Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, 48, an internationally acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize-winning German photographer.
Niedringhaus was shot to death and AP reporter Kathy Gannon was gravely wounded Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire on them with his AK-47 as they sat in their car as part of a convoy that was traveling in eastern Afghanistan's Khost Province to cover the country's upcoming election, which Taliban have threatened to disrupt.
[UPDATE: Gannon, 60, a veteran AP reporter, former bureau chief and a special correspondent for the region, was shot twice and underwent surgery, the AP said. She is in stable condition and expected to recover, the AP said.]
"Anja and Kathy together have spent years in Afghanistan covering the conflict and the people there. Anja was a vibrant, dynamic journalist well-loved for her insightful photographs, her warm heart and joy for life. We are heartbroken at her loss," said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, speaking in New York.
Niedringhaus won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in breaking news photography as part of an AP team who covered the war in Iraq. Click here to see some of Niedringhaus' photos.
From 2006 to 2007, she was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, where she met classmate of National Press Club member Andrea McCarren and her husband, Press Club Executive Director Bill McCarren.
Bill McCarren recalled Niedringhaus as a "completely class act" and natural leader who patiently taught the kids in the program how to properly hold a camera and charmed her colleagues.
"Of the many big personalities we were lucky enough to spend a year with at the Nieman program none was bigger than Anja Niedringhaus," McCarren said. "When a group got together to tell stories Anja always had the topper, got the biggest laugh used just the right words even though (English) was her second language."
AP President Gary Pruitt said Niedringhaus is the 32 AP staffer to die in pursuit of news since the AP was founded in 1846.
"This is a profession of the brave and the passionate, those committed to the mission of bringing to the world information that is fair, accurate and important. Anja Niedringhaus met that definition in every way," Pruitt wrote in a memo to staff.
National Press Club President Myron Belkind, who spent decades as a foreign correspondent and bureau chief for The Associated Press, sent the following letter on Friday to Pruitt:
President Gary Pruitt
The Associated Press
The National Press Club expresses its deep condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Anja Niedringhaus and pays tribute to her for her excellence in photography that set the highest standards for our profession.
She always captured the best photos in the most difficult of circumstances – from wars and conflict zones to Wimbledon -- and her lifetime of professional achievements, including a Pulitzer Prize for photography, will be a permanent legacy and tribute to her.
The National Press Club would like to honor Anja’s memory by displaying her photos at a special exhibit and would be pleased to work with the AP to do so as early as possible.
We also wish to pay tribute to the high professional standards set by Kathy Gannon for her reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past three decades and hope she will make a speedy recovery from the wounds she received in the same attack that killed Anja.
Today is a terrible loss for The Associated Press and our profession at large, and journalists around the world will rededicate their efforts to ensuring that they continue to report and photograph the news despite obstacles and dangers, as Anja did in her life and as we know Kathy will do following her recovery.