The Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) has expressed deep shock at the passing away of photojournalist Danish Siddiqui in the call of professional duty in Afghanistan.
Siddiqui, 40, a Reuters photographer, had been embedded as a journalist with Afghan Special Forces based out of Kandahar and “had been reporting on fighting between Afghan commandos and Taliban fighters”, Reuters said.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning Indian photojournalist, Danish Siddiqui was killed July 16, 2021 while covering bloody clashes between Afghan security forces and the Taliban in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.
He is survived by wife Rike and two children. He had captured some of the most riveting moments of major news events in India, South Asia and beyond over the last few years.
Those who condoled his death included Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, India’ Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, speaking at the UN Security Council in New York, condemned the killing of Siddiqui while on a reporting assignment.
The Afghanistan Embassy in New Delhi, Indian Embassy in Kabul and the ICRC were coordinating the follow-up. The Taliban handed over his body to the ICRC and arrangements were being made to bring the body to New Delhi.
Siddiqui had told Reuters that he had been wounded in the arm by shrapnel but had been treated and that the Taliban fighters had initially retreated from Spin Boldak. He died after the fighting resumed.
Reuters President Michael Freidenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni, in a statement, said: “We’re urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region. Danish was an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague. Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time.”
Testament to his courage and work, Siddiqui’s last account on July 13 is a brave telling of the fighting on the outskirts of Kandahar. He documented an extraction mission of the ASF while the Humvee he was travelling in was under attack. He captured the photograph of a young civilian caught in the middle of the conflict.
An alumnus of the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, Siddiqui started out as a television reporter. He had been working with Reuters since 2010. He was part of the Reuters photography team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Siddiqui also covered the war in Iraq, the Nepal earthquake, protests in Hong Kong, the Easter Sunday blasts in Sri Lanka.
At home, Siddiqui’s photographs were seminal works, from capturing the Delhi riots to the most recent images highlighting the gravity of the second Covid-19 wave.
In his Reuters profile, Siddiqui said of himself: “While I enjoy covering news stories – from business to politics to sports – what I enjoy most is capturing the human face of a breaking story…I shoot for the common man who wants to see and feel a story from a place where he can’t be present himself.”
Last Friday, teachers and colleagues remembered Siddiqui as one of the best photojournalists of this generation. In a statement, the university said it “deeply mourns the tragic and untimely” death of Siddiqui. Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar called it a “big loss to journalism and the Jamia fraternity”.
Siddiqui also taught photography at the Jamia. His last class was on April 26 this year for which he found time during the Covid-19 second wave.
The CJA dips its flag to mourn the death of a sincere and dedicated photojournalist.