One afternoon in late May I picked up a copy of my newspaper and was so shocked by a news brief in the international section that I gave out an involuntary yell and immediately had to sit down.
My colleagues around me turned to ask what was wrong but I could not reply. One of them came over to find out what had rendered me speechless and I pointed out the story to him.
It read "2 Journalists Killed in Sierra Leone", and went on to say that Kurt Schork, 53, a Reuters correspondent and Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, 32, an AP-TV producer/cameraman, had been shot dead by rebels while traveling in a convoy near Rogberi Junction in Sierra Leone, which is embroiled in a bitter civil war. Another journalist, Reuters photojournalist Yannis Behrakis, escaped with minor injuries by hiding in the bush as the gunmen hunted for him.
What the news brief did not say was that two of the most dedicated and talented foreign correspondents of their generation had been killed. What the words in the newspaper could not convey was the deep sadness and sense of personal loss that has overcome those who knew these men and their work.
I met Kurt Schork in Bosnia in the early 90's, when the war in Yugoslavia was in its early stages and the siege of Sarajevo was dominating the news around the world. Among the foreign press corps in Bosnia no one was more professional, respected and decent than Kurt. His dispatches reflected his refusal of the lies and excuses given for inaction in Bosnia by UN and Western officials. His outrage at the brutality taking place before the world's eyes caused the UN spokesmen at the 11AM daily press briefing in Sarajevo considerable discomfort. This great compassion for people caught up in the madness of war was shown to the whole world one summer day in 1992.
Kurt was among the journalists attending a funeral at the old Lion cemetery, a place targeted by Bosnian Serb gunners and snipers. On that day several mortar shells fell in the middle of the funeral party and wounded a grandmother and members of her family who were already in mourning. As most ducked for cover, Kurt raced over and dedicated himself to trying to save the wounded civilians.
Miguel Gil came to journalism late, after training as a lawyer. He showed up in Sarajevo at the AP bureau one day and the rest is history. Like Kurt Schork, he covered many of the nasty little wars in the last decade of the 20th century, places like Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Kosovo. Miguel was the one whose incredible footage of Kosovar Albanians being deported enmasse on packed trains from Pristina galvanized outrage around the world. He and Kurt were dedicated to telling the stories of the innocent victims of war, at the risk of their lives and with personal hardship. That was their mission. To seek out the truth and lay it out there even if the majority of people in the world did not care to look.
They will be greatly missed but not forgotten.
Roger Richards is a staff photojournalist at the Washington Times in Washington, D.C. He is the editor and publisher of the multimedia website Digitalfilmmaker.Net.
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