Casualties of foreign journalists mount in Afghanistan

New York January 11, 2010—The death of U.K.-based Sunday Mirror reporter Rupert Hamer, who was killed in an explosion outside a village in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, is an indicator of the rising danger for journalists in Afghanistan. The explosion also wounded Hamer’s colleague photographer Philip Coburn and took the life of a U.S. Marine.

The men were traveling in an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle) which was hit by a roadside bomb. Hamer and Coburn, both British, were embedded with a squad of U.S. Marines on patrol near Nawa in the southern province of Helmand, where U.S., British, and Canadian troops and Taliban fighters have squared off ahead of an U.S. military offensive expected in February. 

Rupert Hamer’s death marks the 18th death of a journalist in the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan, according to CPJ research. Twelve of those killed have been foreign journalists—the highest death toll for war reporters since Iraq.

“It is clear the nature of this conflict presents great danger to everyone who covers it, no matter which side they embed with or whether they try to cover it unilaterally,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We fear that there will be more danger to journalists as the U.S. military increases its offensive.

Hamer is the second foreign reporter to die in Afghanistan in two weeks. Canadian journalist Michelle Lang, reporting for the Calgary Herald and the Canwest News Service, died on December 30 while embedded with Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Sultan Munadi, an Afghan reporter for The New York Times, was killed in September during a rescue operation after a Taliban faction kidnapped him and Times reporter Stephen Farrell near Kunduz.

Two French reporters and two or three of their Afghan crew are still being held by a Taliban faction, all apparently kidnapped while on assignment in the eastern province of Kapisa for France 3 public television station. The Afghan government reported them kidnapped on December 30. The names of the crew have not been released by the Afghan or French governments, and France 3 has declined to publicly identify them.  

A full list of casualties in Afghanistan can be found within CPJ’s database of journalists killed for their work since 1992.