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AP journalist’s killer in Afghanistan jailed for 20 years: CEO

March 30, 2015

An Afghan policeman who shot dead a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photojournalist was imprisoned for 20 years over the weekend, after his death sentence was commuted, the AP’s CEO said in Hong Kong on Monday.

The policeman killed German photographer Anja Niedringhaus and left her Canadian colleague Kathy Gannon wounded while they were covering the run-up to elections in the conflict-wracked country in April 2014.

“Originally he was sentenced to death. He appealed, and his sentence was just finally confirmed on Saturday, two days ago. His sentence was changed to 20 years,” Gary Pruitt said during an address to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong.

“There is solace in knowing there was justice done in that case, and we are grateful for that.”

The police commander opened fire on the two journalists in their car after shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Great”) on April 4, 2014, witnesses told AP at the time. He then surrendered and was held for questioning.

Niedringhaus became the third journalist working for international media to be killed during the campaign. Pruitt said that Gannon was recuperating.

“Kathy and Anja were a awesome combination in covering Afghanistan over the years,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt, who was addressing journalist safety in conflict zones, said that attacks on journalists should be considered a war crime.

“In 90 percent of the cases of a journalist being killed, there is no prosecution, no trial, there is not even an investigation,” he said. “Something is not working.”

“AP believes that there needs to be a new international legal mechanism to protect journalists, one that makes the killing of journalists or taking them hostage a war crime. It is a war crime.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.