The Editors Guild of India on Saturday said it was deeply disturbed by the racist campaign on social media against photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, who was killed in Afghanistan on Friday.

Siddiqui, who worked for Reuters news agency, was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and the Taliban. The 38-year-old was in the border town of Spin Boldak with Afghan security forces when he was caught in Taliban crossfire, an Afghan commander told Reuters.

He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and the chief of Reuters Pictures multimedia team in India. He has covered many important events in Asia, West Asia and Europe, including the Rohingya refugee crisis – for which he received the Pulitzer along with two of his colleagues – the Hong Kong protests and living conditions of asylum seekers in Switzerland.

The Editors Guild said it was “deeply disturbed by the vicious and highly regrettable racist campaign” against Siddiqui on social media.

After the news of Siddiqui’s death hit social media, some users on Twitter shared an unverified image of his dead body. Some users also celebrated the death, alleging that his coverage of the funeral pyres during the second wave of the pandemic in India in April and May was an attempt to malign the country’s image.

However, several journalists and other Twitter users urged people not to share the image to maintain the dignity of the dead. They also explained the perspective behind Siddiqui’s photos and the humane approach he took while covering a tragedy.

In pictures: Danish Siddiqui photos that powerfully captured critical moments in the India story

The Editors Guild added that Siddiqui’s death was a “stern reminder” of the kind of risks that journalists take to report from the frontlines of any conflict.

The journalists’ body noted that over the past decade, Siddiqui had covered crucial stories of conflict and humanitarian crisis from South Asia and the surrounding regions, including the 2019 Easter blasts in Sri Lanka, and the riots in North East Delhi in 2020, and “the devastating human tragedy caused by the pandemic”.

“His work was therefore a living testament to the axiom of photojournalism, ‘if your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough’,” the Editors Guild said.

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Several other media associations also expressed their condolences and called for attention to the risks taken by journalists covering conflict zones.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said authorities in Afghanistan should conduct a swift and thorough inquiry into the killing of Siddiqui. The committee described the death as tragic, adding that as the United States and its allies withdraw forces, journalists will continue to work in Afghanistan, “documenting whatever comes next at great risk to their lives”.

“Combatants need to take responsibility for safeguarding journalists, as dozens of journalists have been killed in this conflict, with little or no accountability,” the committee said.

The Press Club of India said it will hold a candle light meeting in collaboration with the Working News Cameraman’s Association on Saturday between 6 pm and 7 pm in the memory of Siddiqui.

It also expressed shock about the journalist’s death and said it was at a “loss of words”. “True journalism needs courage and Danish’s body of work is a testament to that,” the Press Club of India said.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of South Asia said that Siddiqui was a “fiercely talented photojournalist”.

“More often than not, the singular image that defined the biggest news of the day, resonant for its humanity and artistry, was taken by Danish,” the association of foreign correspondents said. “He will be remembered for his intelligence, compassion and bravery, and his body of work will live on forever.”

The photojournalist’s alma mater Jamia Millia Islamia’s AJK Mass Communication Research Centre in Delhi also mourned his death, reported PTI.

“It is absolutely devastating news and we are still processing it. Danish was one of the brightest stars in MCRC’s hall of fame,” a statement said. “Danish was special not just because of all his professional achievements, but because of the wonderful man he was.”

Meanwhile, at an event on Friday of the United Nations Security Council, India condemned the killing of Siddiqui in Afghanistan. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla raised concerns about the violence against civilians during armed conflict. Foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that India’s ambassador in Kabul was in touch with Afghan authorities on the matter.

The Taliban has expressed regret over Siddiqui’s death, but denied any role in it.