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Highlight: Mika Yamamoto — The Tragic Story of a Heroic Journalist

On today (August 20) 10 years in the past, Mika Yamamoto and her boyfriend and colleague Kazutaka Sato had been touring in a van with the Free Syrian Military in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest metropolis. The couple had been overlaying the civil conflict within the space for Nippon TV once they had been abruptly caught in the course of an armed battle between Syrian opposition and pro-government forces. Yamamoto was shot within the neck. Tragically, her loss of life was confirmed at a close-by hospital shortly after. She was simply 45.

“Mika was vastly respected amongst journalists as a result of she pursued an actual mission. If solely her title was extra broadly identified throughout her life. Sadly, it’s her loss of life that has made her a nationwide determine,” Yamamoto’s pal and fellow information correspondent Miyuki Hokugou instructed Time magazines. So, who was this heroic reporter who frequently risked her life to presentde information protection in conflict zones? On this month’s Highlight we glance again on the lifetime of Yamamoto, one among Japan’s bravest information journalists.

Yamamoto needed to provide a voice to suppressed females inside Afghanistan | COPYRIGHT (C) JessicaGirvan/Shutterstock

Background

Born in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture on Could 26, 1967, Yamamoto was the second of her mother and father’ three daughters. Her father was a journalist for the Asahi Shimbun and from a younger age she was decided to observe him down an identical profession path. And so she did, becoming a member of the Asahi Newstar as a reporter in 1990. A proficient video journalist and director for documentaries and information applications, it wasn’t lengthy earlier than Yamamoto was attracting curiosity from different media shops.

In 1996, she joined the Japan Press, an unbiased media group primarily based in Tokyo. This was when her profession as a conflict correspondent started. From the mid-Nineteen Nineties onwards, Yamamoto reported on the entrance line in areas akin to Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya. Utilizing her handheld digicam, she did greater than merely describe what was taking place. Her goal was to provide a voice to folks that had been usually ignored, significantly girls and kids.

A topic she was significantly keen about was the suppression of females inside Afghanistan. Yamamoto first visited the Islamic nation in 1996 and continued going again yearly, even after the US invasion in 2001. “I requested myself what points there have been that few folks coated, which wanted to be communicated however weren’t given sufficient consideration, and what areas had been very troublesome for folks to get to, which wanted to be coated and reported on however weren’t,” she as soon as stated at a lecture at Waseda College.

Yamamoto was within the Palestine Resort in Baghdad when it was attacked in 2003 | COPYRIGHT (C) Rasool Ali/Shutterstock

A Harmful Occupation

The brave journalist was conscious of the dangers concerned in her job. She was contracted by Japan Press to cowl conflict zones for main publications and TV networks that weren’t ready to ship their very own full-time workers due to the risks related to the work. Previous to her loss of life, the scariest second got here in April 2003, when she was staying on the Palestine Resort in Baghdad, Iraq.

It was the constructing by which many of the overseas media within the metropolis had been primarily based. American forces fired a tank shell that hit the fifteenth ground balcony of the lodge being utilized by Reuters. The information company’s Ukrainian-born photographer Taras Protsyuk and Spanish cameraman Jose Couso of Telecinco tv had been killed within the assault. The 2 troopers involved, Sergeant Shawn Gibson and Captain Philip Wolford stated they believed they had been firing on enemy troops.

Yamamoto was within the adjoining room to the one which was hit. She rapidly rushed subsequent door to see what was taking place and to verify on the injured. Within the speedy aftermath of the shelling her voice will be heard frantically crying out for assist. on the identical day, Al-Jazeera’s media station on the opposite aspect of the river from the Palestine Resort was additionally hit by American forces. Reporter Tareq Ayoub died consequently.

Yamamoto set off to Tohoku quickly after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami | COPYRIGHT (C) FLY_AND_DIVE/SHUTTERSTOCK

Recognition and Reporting on Forgotten Victims

In 2004, Yamamoto was awarded the Vaughn-Uyeda Memorial Worldwide Journalistic Prize for her protection of the conflict in Iraq. Named in honor of former United Press Vice President Miles W. Vaughn and Sekizo Uyeda, former president of Dentsu promoting company, it’s conferred yearly on journalists “who’ve made distinctive contributions to the promotion of worldwide understanding via their reporting.”

Given her intensive experiences in war-ravaged areas, it was then no shock Yamamoto was chosen to be a visitor lecturer at Waseda College’s journalism faculty and her Alma mater, Tsuru College. In keeping with Waseda Professor Shiro Segawa, she was “an individual who excelled not solely as a journalist, but additionally as an educator.” Settling for a life within the classroom, although, was by no means an possibility. She felt it was her responsibility to be on the market, on the forefront of the motion, reporting on forgotten victims.

9 days after the Nice East Japan earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, she set off to Ishinomaki, Kesennuma and Miyako to interview folks affected by the catastrophe. “Information media all through Japan had been utilizing each doable means to assemble and report data, however there have been nonetheless locations that had been deserted, areas that had been remoted,” she stated. “So, I assumed I might collect data to fill in these gaps.”

Yamamoto’s Demise and Legacy

One other main information occasion in March 2011 was the beginning of the Syrian civil conflict. Bashar al-Assad’s authorities confronted an unprecedented problem to its authority with demonstrations happening nationwide. Police, army and paramilitary forces suppressed the protests with violence. This quickly expanded right into a fully-fledged conflict. Yamamoto and her companion Sato had been despatched to cowl the battle for Nippon TV. It was an project that might ultimately result in her loss of life.

On that fateful day on August 20, 2012, Sato remembers 10 to fifteen males strolling in the direction of them. “At first I assumed it was the Free Syrian Military and we had been on the identical aspect, so I held up my digicam and began taking pictures,” he instructed CNN. “It was then that it occurred. I assumed I used to be going to be hit and that is after I was separated from Mika… I must know what occurred to her. Mika was the perfect a part of my skilled and private life. She was my proper hand, my left hand, my all the pieces. I don’t know what to do now she’s now not right here.”

Yamamoto was the fourth overseas journalist killed within the Syrian Battle and the primary from Japan. On Could 3, 2013, she was posthumously awarded the World Press Freedom Hero prize by the Worldwide Press Institute. The Mika Yamamoto Worldwide Journalist Award was additionally established in her honor. It’s introduced yearly to people working in journalism (whether or not via video, image or print) who exemplify her spirit.