(Canadian OH&S News) — A Canadian Associated Press (AP) reporter is being treated for bullet wounds at a hospital in Germany following a shooting attack in eastern Afghanistan on the eve of elections.
Journalist Kathy Gannon was injured and her colleague, 48-year-old German AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus, was killed on April 4, after an Afghan police officer opened fire on their vehicle in Khost province. The AP employees, who were covering the lead-up to the elections in Afghanistan, were sitting in their car, reportedly waiting for the armed convoy they were part of to move, when the attack occurred.
Gannon, a regional correspondent and past Afghanistan bureau chief for AP, remained in stable condition, reported AP director of media relations Paul Colford. She was taken to a French-run NATO military medical facility in Kabul immediately after the attack, where she was treated for at least three gunshot wounds to her arms and right shoulder, Colford went on to say.
Once medical procedures were performed to ensure she was fit to fly, AP evacuated Gannon by air ambulance on April 6. It is uncertain how long she would remain in the hospital at Krankenhaus Nordwest medical facility in Frankfurt, Germany, said Colford. “We are heartened by her progress. She has been alert and aware and has been talking to relatives and close friends since Monday afternoon.”
Gary Pruitt, CEO of AP, issued a note to staff immediately following the attack. “As conflict spreads throughout regions of the world, journalism has become more dangerous. Where once reporters and photographers were seen as the impartial eyes and ears of crucial information, today they are often targets,” said Pruitt in the statement. “AP takes the security of its staff very seriously, equipping them with protective gear and intensive training. Yet even that is sometimes not enough.”
This is the 32nd AP staff member to die while reporting the news since 1846, according to Pruitt.
“The security of AP’s global news staff, a number of whom work in perilous locations, has always been of paramount concern to us and remains so in the aftermath of this terrible loss,” said Colford.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Afghanistan 128 out of 180 countries in its 2014 World Press Freedom Index. Syria was the deadliest country for journalists in 2013, with 28 deaths with confirmed motives, according to the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression executive director Tom Henheffer said Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous regions for correspondents.
He notes that reporters are increasingly at risk because news organizations nowadays rely heavily on freelancers, but do not provide insurance to them.
“It’s always better when you have an organization behind you. Someone that if you’re kidnapped has insurance for ransom or that can lobby on your behalf with the government and that can pay your medical bills and things like that.”
Henheffer recommended journalists get a local in foreign countries who can act as a guide in dangerous situations. He also suggested journalists avoid parachuting into a location for a short time without knowing the culture and language, or having developed local contacts.
A funeral service for Niedringhaus was held on April 12 in Hoxter, Germany.