Earlier today, as I was scrolling through Twitter on my Blackberry while waiting for the elevator at my office (seriously – I spend inordinate amounts of time doing this), I saw a tweet that Tim Hetherington had been killed in Libya. As I’m sure you do, I read tons of horrible, sad news on a daily basis, but it’s rare when news makes me feel emotional. When I read about Hetherington’s death, I felt a big knot in my throat. Unlike some of other bloggers and friends, I never had the opportunity to meet him, but his reputation preceded him. To get a sense of the man and the respect he commended, check out Glenna Gordon’s tribute, as well as this touching piece in NYT’s Lens blog.
I think FP’s Beth Dickinson said it well. Recounting when she first met Hetherington in 2006 in Monrovia, Dickinson writes “Tim was not only piqued by war; he was interested in the fate of Liberia — in seeing this country recover. In short, he was there because he gave a damn. And his mere presence proved his commitment: Now that things were calming down in Liberia, most other journalists were gone.”
Many of us rely on the courageous work of journalists like Hetherington to understand what’s happening in inaccessible/dangerous/ignored parts of the world. I became familiar with Hetherington’s work through the incredible documentary on Liberia, “Liberia: An Uncivil War“. This documentary, in which Hetherington and James Barbazon lived and followed rebels as they carried out attacks against Charles Taylor, is probably the best film there is on the Liberian war. It’s an incredible piece, and it required immense courage to tell this story. Since this 2004 documentary, Hetherington continued to shed light on the Liberian civil war and how it affected people in Liberia. In 2009, he published “Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold”, which explores the post-war era in the country and some its key challenges. His deep understanding of the issues and his human-centered approach to story-telling made his work incredibly compelling.
Ken Roth, of Human Rights Watch, told the NYT it’s “a devastating loss to the human rights community. His work has raised the visibility of many of the world’s forgotten conflicts. May the legacy of his exceptional photographs serve to inspire future generations.” The world lost a remarkable journalist and story-teller today. R.I.P. Tim.
Below are some excerpts I could find of “Liberia: An Uncivil War”. I highly recommend you watch the entire documentary.