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Embedded British reporter killed by roadside bomb, photographer injured

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders offers its heartfelt condolences to the family and colleagues of British journalist Rupert Hamer, the London-based "Sunday Mirror"'s defence correspondent, who was killed on 9 January 2009 when the US military vehicle in which he was travelling was hit by a roadside bomb in southwestern Afghanistan.

"Our thoughts are also with his colleague, photographer Philip Coburn, who was seriously wounded in the blast, and we hope he will soon be out of danger,” the press freedom organisation said.

Hamer, a 39-year-old father of three, and Coburn, 43 were embedded with a US Marine Corps unit. A US marine and an Afghan soldier were also killed by the explosion, near the town of Nawa in Helmand province, while four US marines were injured.

"The resurgence of indiscriminate violence in which journalists are among the victims poses one of the main dangers for the media in Afghanistan," Reporters Without Borders said. "Hamer's tragic death serves as a reminder that journalists risk their lives every day to report the news. It also highlights the fact that, despite the danger, being 'embedded' has become one of the only ways to cover the war in Afghanistan from close up."

Reporters Without Borders added: "Yesterday's tragedy comes just 10 days after Michelle Lang, a 34-year-old reporter for the 'Calgary Herald', died in similar circumstances. Lang, who was embedded with the Canadian military, was killed when the military vehicle she was in was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan. A grim pattern is being set."

There were many reactions to the death of Hamer, who according to the British authorities was the first British journalist to be killed in Afghanistan. Both British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and defence secretary Bob Ainsworth (who had been accompanied by Hamer during his most recent visit to Afghanistan) paid tribute to him and Coburn, citing their professionalism, courage and dedication.

A total of 12 foreign journalists and eight Afghan journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since 11 September 2001.
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