- Journalists across the world mourned the loss of their courageous colleague, even as some Hindu extremists apparently celebrated the 38-year-old’s death.
Danish Siddiqui, Reuters’ chief photographer in India, was killed on July 16 while on assignment in southern Afghanistan, after coming under fire by Taliban militiamen. Reporting Siddiqui’s death, the news agency cited an Afghan commander who said the 38-year-old photojournalist had been killed while covering fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters.
As per the Reuters report, Siddiqui had been embedded with Afghan special forces in southern Kandahar province when he was killed along with a senior Afghan officer.
Earlier on July 16, Siddiqui told Reuters he was injured in the arm by shrapnel while reporting on the clash. Reuters said he was treated and was recovering when Taliban fighters retreated from the fighting in Spin Boldak. He was talking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked again, the Afghan commander told Reuters.
“We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region,” Reuters president Michael Friedenberg and editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement. “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.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned Siddiqui’s death saying, “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 Mr. Siddiqui’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,” he Tweeted.
Based in Mumbai, Siddiqui graduated with a degree in Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He also had a degree in Mass Communication from the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre at the same institute. He began his career as a television news correspondent and later joined Reuters as an intern in 2010. Since then, he has been documenting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, protests in Hong Kong, and taking on assignments in India that ranged from religious celebrations to the country’s battle against coronavirus.
He was part of a Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for work covering the Rohingya refugees who were fleeing Myanmar. In a Twitter post, Reuters shared a selection of some of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer’s best work.
According to a profile on Reuters’ website, Siddiqui received his first formal training in photography at film school. “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,” Siddiqui said in the profile. “I shoot for the common man who wants to see and feel a story from a place where he can’t be present himself.”
Siddiqui’s colleagues, fellow journalists, and politicians took to Twitter to mourn his death.
In a tweet, the Press Club of India said it was “shocked” at the passing of Siddiqui. “True journalism needs courage and Danish’s body of work is a testament to that,” it said. “We are at a loss of words.”
“Danish was a lovely man,” former Reuters journalist Rahul Bhatia tweeted. “When he returned from assignments to the bureau, reporters greeted him like a rock star, which he really was. He was just different. News wasn’t just news for him. He saw the people behind it, and wanted to make you feel.”
Henry Foy of the Financial Times described Siddiqui as a “brilliantly talented photographer and a wonderful former colleague.”
Journalist Sushant Singh described Siddiqui as a people’s photographer. “India and the world of journalism is poorer because Danish Siddiqui is no more,” he wrote. “He made India and journalism proud and died in the line of duty. His outstanding body of work lives, which no character assassination can kill.”
Actor Sidharth, in a Tweet, wrote: “Rest in power #DanishSiddiqui. I pray for your soul. I salute your life. We will always remember you with pride. Love and strength to your family. A journalist killed in action is no less than a soldier. Every single person who celebrated his death…I pray for your end.”
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s tweet said: “The demise of Danish Siddiqui is a tragic loss. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist whose photographs were emblematic of the upheavals that our country witnessed in the past few years. My thoughts & prayers are with his family, loved ones, and colleagues.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi condoled Siddiqui’s death on Twitter. “I appeal to GOI to facilitate bringing his mortal remains back home at the earliest.”
Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin tweeted: “I am deeply saddened by the untimely death of @dansiddiqui who, through his camera lens, had brought to us the devastation of pandemics, pogroms, and humanitarian crises. His death gives a message to the world once again to shun violence and terrorism in any form.
Congress convener Hasiba Amin tweeted: “So Taliban has killed an Indian and Sanghis are celebrating. Now tell me who is the real anti-National?
In a series of tweets, journalist Rana Ayub shared photos with Siddiqui. “One of my first colleagues at work, friend, critic, mischief monger,” she wrote. “One of the most dedicated journalists. Pursued his most passionate obsession, his love for the camera, capturing the truth however dangerous. You left too soon bhai.”
In another tweet, she blasted those who were celebrating Siddiqui’s death. “The Indian right wing is so bloody sick, they are cheering, mocking the death of #danishsiddiqui. You know what you anonymous bots, I feel for your wretched existence. Danish died a brave death, while you paid bots do not even have the guts to reveal your identity.”
Similarly, journalist Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted: “Shouldn’t Twitter take down the handles that are ‘celebrating’ the death of a remarkably brave photojournalism 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?”
Many journalists joined Ayub and Sardesai to criticize the ruling BJP government. Journalist Mohammed Zubair wrote: “He is hated by RW for showing reality. He is hated by RW for exposing the mismanagement by the authorities. He is hated by RW for showing a mirror to authorities who denied dignity to the dead. He is hated by RW for exposing govt for not doing their duty.”
Print and broadcast journalist Swati Chaturvedi called out Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for being silent on Siddiqui’s death. “Modi is normally the fastest finger first yet not even a tweet condoling the death of a Pulitzer-winning photojournalist #DanishSiddiqui Is it because Siddique exposed his catastrophic mismanagement of the second wave of Covid?”
Some supported the government and blamed the secularists for glorifying Siddiqui’s death. In a tweet, Anshul Saxena criticized secularists for blaming everyone except the Taliban for Siddiqui’s death.
Journalist Abhijit Majumdar, co-founder, and editor-in-chief of earshot.in tweeted: “If you read timelines of India’s so-called liberals, you will believe RW killed #DanishSiddiqui, not the Taliban or Islamist terrorism. Not a single unqualified condemnation of the most barbaric, vile ideology in the world. Run as much as you want, you can’t run from the truth.
Journalist Rifat Jawaid tweeted: “One of the reasons why Hindutva brigade is celebrating #DanishSiddiqui’s tragic death is because they know they can never attain his global success. Hindutva fanatics are often intellectually challenged, bereft of any talent. They only excel in hatred! Hence, this bitterness!
Physician Jwala Gurunath decried those celebrating Siddiqui’s death. “Hinduism doesn’t teach you to celebrate death,” she wrote. “Maybe Hindutva teaches. It’s the Hindu Taliban.”