Danish Siddiqui’s photojournalism captured the soul of the news

The Reuters photojournalist was killed while covering clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban in Kandahar


Image Courtesy:indiatoday.in

Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist Danish Siddiqui is no more. He died on the field, doing what he did best… covering the news. Siddiqui, one of the top photojournalists working with Reuters news agency, was killed on duty in Kandahar in Afghanistan on Friday, while covering clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban. Here’s a look through his extraordinary life and career.

Siddiqui earned his postgraduate degree from Jamia Millia Islamia’s AJK-Mass Communication Research Centre in 2007, after his graduation in Economics from the same university. Years later, his photograph of a gun wielding right wing extremist threatening to shoot peacefully protesting students at the same university went viral across the world. Siddiqui had won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, along with his team, for his documentation of the Rohingya refugees. 


When Covid-19 raged across India, he bravely documented the tragedy as it escalated. Siddiqui’s drone shots of scores of pyres of Covid-19 victims who succumbed as the health system collapsed in Delhi, took the real story worldwide. Just like his photo of a Muslim man being beaten up by a Hindutva mob in the communal riots in Delhi, had done earler.

Danish Siddiqui, risked his own life each time he ventured into ‘ground zero’ of the events that were unfolding that day. The powerful images he clicked, and the reports he authored, are timeless archives of the biggest events that have taken place in the country in recent years. Danish Siddiqui’s work showed how news reports are not mere statistics, that each dead, injured, displaced person mentioned in the report is a human being, a citizen. 

He had covered the Covid crisis travelling to remote villages in other states, to major hospitals in Delhi, to the cremation grounds. He stayed with the story, till it reached its often tragic end. 


He had told his colleagues at Reuters while covering Covid-19 that it was unlike anything seen before, “Here you don’t know who you’re fighting…You don’t know the enemy and you can’t see it.” His camera captured it all, like it had done in scores of high octane assignments before, one of which had made him a part of the team that earned the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. “In a way, I am a historian as well, that’s why I have saved all those emotions exhibited by the people in front of my camera for documentation,” Danish Siddiqui had reportedly told Indiatimes after winning. His coverage of Women’s Day at the Farmer’s Protest in Delhi was amazing too. His captions were touching.

His last assignment was to cover the escalating violence in Afghanistan. He had reported on social media that the Afghan Special Forces’ vehicle he had been traveling in had been hit, but he had luckily escaped. He had reported that he had been wounded in the arm by shrapnel while reporting on the clash. According to news reports the Afghan special forces team was fighting to reclaim a market area of Spin Boldak when “Siddiqui and a senior Afghan officer were killed in what was described as Taliban crossfire.” 

According to news reports, “Siddiqui had been talking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked again”. Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni issued a statement hailing Danish as “an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague. Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time.” 


While his landmark photos told the news story as it were, with honesty, raw facts, and empathy, it also earned him the wrath of self proclaimed right wing ‘nationalists’. An army of online right wing vigilantes had trolled him viciously when the photos, especially of the Covid-19 victims’ funerals. They targeted and accused him of ‘disrespecting’ Hindu funerals, and in their abuse, tried to divert attention from the fact of many deaths, some due to lack of oxygen, and hospital beds, being laid bare before the whole world.

When news of Danish Siddiqui being killed on duty in Afghanistan, these right wing trolls turned into online vultures and feasted on the tragery. While scores of politicians, journalists, activists, and thousands of citizens mourned the death of a brave and talented journalist, there were some who celebrated. Trolls, said the photojournalist, who has a young family, was killed because of bad ‘karma’. Others tried to veil their hate for the journalist, sharing unverified photographs reportedly of his body. Clearly, even in death, Danish Siddiqui laid bare the truth of how a polarised nation exposes its own flaws.


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