Anja Niedringhaus, Pulitzer Winner, Dies at 48 in Afghan Attack

Anja Niedringhaus, the German photojournalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the Iraq War, was shot dead by a policeman while on assignment in Afghanistan. She was 48.

Niedringhaus was killed yesterday while reporting on an election-commission convoy preparing for today’s presidential election in Afghanistan, according to Baryalai Rawan, a spokesman for the governor in Khost province bordering Pakistan. A Canadian reporter, Kathy Gannon, was wounded in the same attack. The women were seated in the back of a car when the officer fired.

A photographer for the Associated Press since 2002, Niedringhaus was the only woman in a team of 11 photojournalists from the AP who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in the breaking-news category for its coverage of the Iraq War. She was also the chief photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency during the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, where she covered the conflict from Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to her website.

“For me, covering conflict and war is the essence of journalism,” she wrote for the Spring 2012 issue of Nieman Reports, a publication of Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. “The legacy of any photographer is her or his ability to capture the moment, to record history. For me it is about showing the struggle and survival of the individual.”

Occupational Hazards

Used to the hazards of war correspondence, Niedringhaus was hit by a sniper’s bullet on her first day in Sarajevo; had her foot broken in three places by a police car while covering demonstrations in Belgrade in 1997; and was blown out of a car by a grenade in Kosovo the following year, according to the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation. She was also among a group of journalists mistakenly bombed by NATO forces in Albania in 1999.

Based in Geneva, Niedringhaus reported in other conflict zones such as Israel, Palestine and Pakistan. She also covered nine Olympic Games and other sporting events. The publisher of two books, Niedringhaus was honored for her work by receiving awards such as Pictures of the Year International, Best of Photojournalism and the Clarion Awards. She was also a Nieman Fellow in journalism at Harvard University from 2006 to 2007.

“Anja was a vibrant, dynamic journalist well-loved for her insightful photographs, her warm heart and joy for life,” AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said yesterday in New York, the news organization reported. “We are heartbroken at her loss.”

Early Years

Niedringhaus was born on Oct. 12, 1965, in Hoexter, a town in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. At age 16, she was a freelance photographer for a local newspaper while attending high school, according to her website. She then studied German literature, philosophy and journalism in the university town of Goettingen, Germany.

In 1990, helped by her photo coverage during the fall of the Berlin Wall, she gained a staff position at the European Pressphoto Agency in Frankfurt.

In the past month, Afghanistan’s Taliban has killed at least 25 people in Kabul, including policemen, election officials and foreigners. A Swedish journalist was shot dead in the Afghan capital last month, while a local man who worked for Agence France-Presse died with his family in a strike on a luxury hotel.