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Tributes mount for slain reporters

LONDON, England -- Tributes have been pouring in for the four journalists who were killed in Afghanistan.

Editors and politicians praised their experience and courage as well as their bravery and passion.

All had worked in dangerous areas since becoming veteran war correspondents at a young age.

Two of the group had dispatched their last stories only hours before their car was ambushed on the road between Jalalabad and Kabul.

Italian President Silvio Berlusconi and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi sent messages of condolence to the newsroom of Italian daily Corriere della Sera after its journalist Maria Grazia Cutuli was reported dead.

Ciampi said: "This tragedy makes you realise even more the horror of this war."

Cutuli died along with Harry Burton, an Australian television cameraman, and Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer, both of whom worked for Reuters news agency, as well as Spanish reporter Julio Fuentes who worked for the daily El Mundo.

Cutuli and Fuentes had written the front page splash for their newspapers after discovering vials marked sarin at alleged al Qaeda training camps.

Her paper's editor-in-chief, Ferruccio De Bortoli, told the newsroom: "This article on the nerve gas was for us a scoop. But no scoop is worth a life."

Cutuli, 39, had gone to Islamabad, Pakistan, shortly after the September 11 attacks in the United States, and had only recently entered Afghan territory.

She had been working in Jerusalem, covering the Middle East, before that. "Covering international crises was her great passion," said Barbara Stefanelli, a colleague in the paper's Milan newsroom.

"She had really extraordinary courage," said Antonio Ferrari, a special correspondent.

"She still represented a spirit of journalism in which we must believe."

Cutuli, who was single, came to Corriere della Sera a few years ago from the Italian magazine Epoca, where she was a foreign correspondent.

She had worked in Africa, including Rwanda, where, at one point between journalistic assignments, she had worked for the United Nations refugee agency, Stefanelli said.

Fuentes: a young war veteran reporter

Fuentes had discovered the 20 vials with Cutuli during the weekend.

His deputy editor Victor de la Serna said: "Julio Fuentes was only 42, but already really a veteran foreign correspondent.

"He had been a journalist since 1980, when he was 21. Throughout the 1980s and '90s, he covered most of the major conflicts in the world ... he covered the last of the wars in Central America, the Panama invasion, Kuwait and the Gulf War, the Balkans.

"He was the Western journalist who stayed longest in Sarajevo, in Bosnia during the time ... when it was submitted to bombing and strafing by the Serbs."

He had been signed up to work for the paper's elite team of war correspondents during an interview in an ice cream cafe. His one condition had been "to do stories, action reporting, vital journalism."

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He wrote "Sarajevo, Juicio Final (Final Judgment)" and "Los Ojos de la Guerra (Eyes of War)."

Fuentes started his career when 21 covering civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua for the Madrid daily Cambio 16, before working also in Chechnya, Rome and Moscow.

Reuters: Deaths make us angry

Reuters Editor-in-Chief Geert Linnebank said the killing of his two members of staff were "yet more cold-blooded executions of journalists going about their work."

"We mourn the passing of two friends, consummate professionals who made a life of reporting the facts despite the risks and the dangers that that brought with it."

He added: "Both 33 years old, Harry and Aziz came from very different backgrounds -- Aziz an Afghan refugee who joined Reuters in Pakistan in 1992 where he went on to become a news photographer; Harry an Australian cameraman based in Jakarta who made a name for himself covering the civil war in East Timor.

"What brought both of them to Reuters, and then to Afghanistan, was a shared belief that reporting the news can make a real difference. We owe them a great debt, as colleagues, and as beneficiaries of their reporting."

He went on to say: "That their deaths are cruel, senseless, a terrible waste, goes without saying. But their deaths also make us angry, outraged..."

"We owe it to them, to all the other colleagues who have lost their lives covering conflict, and also the hundreds of journalists who are at risk in the front line every day, to uphold their legacy."


• Missing journalists found dead
November 20, 2001

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