On 16 July, the country and the world stood shocked as Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer winning photojournalist and chief photographer of Reuters in India was killed. He was on assignment in Afghanistan when, according to previous reports, a crossfire ensued and Siddiqui lost his life in the clash. However, a report by the Washington Examiner said on 29 July, that it was not a mere situation of being caught in the crossfire that was the reason for the photojournalist’s death. Read on to know what the report indicated.
Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui killed in clashes
This is what reports had previously suggested. The 41-year-old has been acclaimed and applauded and received worldwide recognition for the brilliant capture of images that have made it to the front covers of the most prestigious publications. Photojournalist with Reuters - an international news organisation, Siddiqui was in Afghanistan to cover the situation that was unfolding on the ground.
Clashes ensued between the Afghan troops and the Taliban and Siddiqui was in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city covering these.
According to previous reports, Siddiqui was embedded with a convoy of Afghan forces, when the group was ambushed by Taliban militants.
What did the Taliban have to say about Danish Siddiqui’s death?
Following the clash and the journalist’s death, Taliban officials made a statement that expressed regret. “We are not aware during whose firing the journalist was killed. We do not know how he died. Any journalist entering the war zone should inform us. We will take proper care of that particular individual," Taliban’s spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN-News18 on Friday. “We are sorry for Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui’s death and regret that journalists are entering war zone without intimation to us," he added.
The emerging story about the death of Danish Siddiqui
Reports that have recently emerged, suggest that Danish Siddiqui wasn’t simply caught in a crossfire but executed. According to the Washington Examiner, Siddiqui travelled to the Spin Boldak region with the Afghan National Army team. The clashes between the two sides have been an ongoing affair.
Siddiqui and the accompanying group were one-third of a mile of the customs post when a Taliban attack caused the group to split. Siddiqui remained with three Afghan troops while the commander and the other men were in another group.
According to reports, during the attack, the shrapnel hit the photojournalist and the group rushed him to a nearby mosque where he was to receive first aid. As the Taliban militants received news that a journalist was inside the mosque, they attacked the place, and reports suggest this was the main reason they did it.
"While a widely circulated public photograph shows Siddiqui's face recognizable, I reviewed other photographs and a video of Siddiqui's body provided to me by a source in the Indian government that show the Taliban beat Siddiqui around the head and then riddled his body with bullets," Micheal Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote.
How was the news of the photojournalist’s death received worldwide?
Following his death, Afghanistan's ambassador to India, Farid Mamundzay said to a grieving country that he was deeply disturbed by the news of the ‘killing of a friend’.
He was not alone in grieving. The photojournalist in the span of his career had managed to capture the hearts of many and left them spell-bound with the kind of photography he did. Out of these though, the pictures of the pitiable state of India during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic were what won him international acclaim. In 2018, Siddiqui had won a prestigious Pulitzer in feature photography for his work documenting the violence that was faced by Myanmar's minority Rohingya community. News of the legend’s killing spread fast.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani too expressed his condolences and in the same breath emphasised his Government’s support of freedom of speech and protection of journalists in Afghanistan. He said “I am deeply saddened with the shocking reports that Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed while covering the Taliban atrocities in Kandahar. While I extend my heartfelt condolences to Sidiqqui's family and also to our media family, I reiterate my government's unwavering commitment to freedom of speech and protection of free media and journalists.”
Prominent Indian journalists spoke up and voiced their opinions on the coverage of Danish Siddiqui’s death. Nidhi Razdan wrote “Don’t whitewash details of photojournalist Danish Siddiqui’s murder - He was not simply killed in a crossfire, nor was he simply collateral damage; rather, he was brutally murdered by the Taliban”
While many grieved the death of the Pulitzer prize winner, there were hate campaigns too with people spewing negative news about his death and celebrating it. Senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai took to Twitter to slam these. Sardesai wrote “Shouldn’t Twitter take down the handles that are ‘celebrating’ the death of a remarkably brave photojournalist and fine Indian citizen who died in the line of duty? Or is this what a vile and hateful social media world is all about? RIP Danish Siddiqui.”
Siddiqui’s body arrived in Delhi on 18 July and was then brought to his home in Jamia Nagar. He was laid to rest at the Jamia Millia Islamia graveyard and hordes of people flocked the area to pay their last respects to the beloved journalist.