Tim Hetherington en Sebastian Junger. Foto screenshot Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? / YouTube

Shooting the messenger met Sebastian Junger

Toen fotograaf Tim Hetherington in 2011 omkwam in Libië, was dat de druppel voor zijn collega Sebastian Junger. Hij stopte als oorlogsverslaggever. Hetherington raakte gewond door een granaatscherf, maar stierf omdat niemand van zijn collega’s wiste hoe ze het bloeden moesten stoppen. Niemand had enige kennis van EHBO.

Junger bleef wel films maken, onder andere de documentaire Which Way Is The Front Line From Here?, een portret van Hetherington. Daarnaast zette Junger Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC) op, een organisatie die (ervaren) oorlogsverslaggevers gratis EHBO-trainingen geeft.

GQ interviewde Junger deze maand uitgebreid over zijn beslissing om te stoppen met conflictjournalistiek en Hetherington. Het blad maakte naast een indringend profiel van Junger ook een van de staat van freelance journalistiek in oorlogsgebieden.

So, what guides a journalist’s decisions in these unlovely places? The frequently repeated maxim that “no story is worth dying for” rings a little hollow. The awkward truth is that, in this field, personal bravery is simultaneously discouraged and rewarded.

An example. As a group of Libyan rebels entered Tripoli in August 2011, the 28-year old Sunday Times correspondent Miles Amoore was with them. As these fighters approached Gaddafi’s base, Amoore was shot in the head by a government sniper. He was wearing a Kevlar helmet and survived. In typically nonchalant fashion, he dusted himself down and continued his work. A few hours later, he became the first reporter to enter Gaddafi’s compound.

With his entry into the Libyan despot’s stronghold, Amoore had a world exclusive. But that scoop only made the inside pages of the Sunday newspaper. On the front page, the Sunday Times ran a first-person account of Amoore’s near-death experience. This editorial decision may seem harmless enough, but it points to a wider truth about newspapers, particularly British ones. The reporter is often the story – and the braver his or her exploits, the better the copy. Indeed, many papers would have made the same calculation as the Sunday Times did in this instance. In a market saturated with images and videos of war, much of it shot by amateurs, there is a need to differentiate yourself from the competition, and highlighting the courage of a star reporter is one way to do this.

Lees het hele artikel Shooting the messengers hier.

Bekijk ook dit panelgesprek van Frontline Club met Junger:

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