Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Westgate Mall Attack Takes Its Toll On Journalists

Two photographers take cover at Westgate Mall (CPJ/AP) 


The Saturday, September 21 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, by Somali al Shabab militants that left over 60 dead took its toll on journalists too. Ruhila Adita-Sood of the Africa Radio Group was killed while hosting a cooking competition for children. Adita-Sood was recently married and expecting her first child.

“I have lost a dear colleague...I don’t know what to do or say. I don’t know who else we have lost today,” Kumar Kaur, a presenter for East FM was quoted by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as saying.

Another Radio Africa Group employee who was also at the cooking competition with Adita-Sood was Andrew Lucheli. “We were ready to get started when suddenly we heard gunshots,” Lucheli told the Nairobi-based Star.

“The team initially thought it was thugs exchanging fire with police along the street below. A few minutes later, the sound of the gunshots intensified, drawing closer to the room they had occupied for the lavish event. What followed is a tale that will forever be etched in Andrew’s mind as the ruthless gunmen started spraying bullets at close range, with most casualties sustaining wounds on their legs,” said the Star

Foreign correspondents related the immediacy the incident and the effect the tragedy had on them. “‘Over the past two decades, I have found myself in numerous war zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I survived bombing in Baghdad, mortar attacks and street battles in Liberia, Libya and Yemen,’ Washington Post East Africa Bureau Chief Sudarsan Raghavan wrote in a blog. ‘But what unfolded Saturday felt markedly different. The war on terrorism had hit uncomfortably close to home [...] the interviews with victims felt more personal than other tragedies I have covered,’” said the CPJ

The Media Council of Kenya while congratulating the media on its responsible reporting of the attack also said journalists covering the incident were victims of trauma. “‘So many journalists have become traumatised as a result of covering this; it has not been easy for them,’” Harun Mwangi, CEO of the Media Council of Kenya was quoted by Capital FM as saying. “‘Most of the time they are forgotten but we have already set up a counselling centre for them.’ He also urged Kenyans to continue supporting the victims of the incident,” said Capital FM.

Meanwhile, Reporters without Borders (RSF) based in Paris said that al Shabab was designated as an “enemy of freedom of information” for carrying out attacks on the independent media in Somalia.

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