The British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, whose documentary on the Afghan war, Restrepo, was nominated for an Oscar, was killed in Libya yesterday while covering fighting in the besieged opposition-held city of Misrata.
Mr Hetherington, 41, is the first Western journalist to lose his life while covering the Libyan civil war. Last night it was reported that a second photojournalist, Chris Hondros, an American working for the Getty photo agency, had also died after suffering a severe brain injury. Hondros, who was 41, had covered conflict zones since the late 1990s including Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two other journalists, Michael Christopher Brown, an American photographer, and Guy Martin, a British citizen working for the Panos photo agency, suffered shrapnel wounds and were yesterday undergoing surgery. The group was covering street fighting on a road leading to the port which regime troops have repeatedly attempted to capture when they came under grenade and mortar fire.
Mr Hetherington, whose early photojournalism appeared in The Independent, was a World Press Photo winner in 2007 for his work with American soldiers in Afghanistan. He was among several dozen journalists who travelled from Benghazi to Misrata on a boat being used by the International Organisation for Migration to evacuate trapped migrant workers. He and others decided to stay on in Misrata to film the humanitarian crisis in the city.
Misrata has become especially dangerous due to salvos of missiles and artillery shells launched into the city by Col Gaddafi's forces. Around 600 have died and 3,000 have been injured since the country's revolution in February. Revolutionaries in Misrata have claimed that fifth columnists inside the city were directing Gaddafi troops to target journalists to prevent coverage of the suffering faced by its people from reaching the outside world.
However, the ferocity of the strife in the city means that virtually everyone faces a degree of risk. While making the Afghan documentary, Mr Hetherington had to be flown out for medical treatment after suffering leg injuries. He said that facing injuries was an occupational hazard.
Denis Cassidy, president of the UK National Association of Press Agencies, said: "It's very sad to learn that a highly respected photojournalist has become another victim covering tragic conflicts overseas. Over recent years there have been an increasing number of journalists being killed or injured while putting their lives on the line to bring reports to the world media."