Paul Jenks – Photographer – An Obituary

The Independent – 00-01-1992

An obituary for Paul Jenks – a photographer working for the Independent newspaper when he was killed in Croatia.

One hour after the photographer Paul Jenks died in Osijek from a Serbian sniper-shot to his neck at Tenski Antonovac, a heartbroken Dutch radio reporter and mutual friend rang me from the hospital:

"He was the best, wasn't he? You will say so?"

Paul arrived early in Croatia and to his credit few of us in those five or six months had the opportunity to know him better, (writes Christopher Long (further to the obituary by Craig Easton and Adam Alexander, 22 January). Like all the best journalists he was constantly on the move with a restless energy (interspersed with short periods of languid reflection) which took him to almost every hellish scene of destruction, slaughter and misery in Croatia. For those of us who shared the experience and the risks, the lists of journalists killed, displayed at the Intercontinental and Esplanade press centres, were sobering enough to convince us that this was a war of far greater scale and importance than the Western media were acknowledging.

Paul shared, and was troubled by, a commonly-held belief among reporters that Western television and news organisations couldn't "afford" yet another war in 1991 after the costs of reporting the Gulf War and the Russian revolution. Most reporters have had such feelings but he, without ever being partisan, campaigned for wider recognition of the anarchic mass insanity that had overtaken the region. As your obituary rightly acknowledged, he was acutely aware of what he described as the journalists' 'Stockholm Syndrome' – the empathy that can arise for a captive towards his captors or, as in his case, an observer towards the 'side' which provides facilities, access, shelter, information or protection.

Shortly before the fall of Vukovar we looked at the casualty list together. In four months, 24 journalists had been killed – more, it was thought, than in the whole of the Vietnam War. Many, he said blithely, had died early on, being reckless and naive. Few of us had yet lost a friend or close colleague.

Paul, greatly respected, was such a friend or colleague to many of us – not reckless, never naive – a survivor. His pointless and tragic death will, alone, suffice and survive as the image he worked so hard to record of a pointless and tragic war.

As many of us suspected at the time, it later emerged that Paul was almost certainly murdered by Croats who had undertaken to escort him to a front-line position. A subsequent BBC TV documentary sought to establish that the identity of his suspected killer is known and that he was still at liberty. This explanation accords with other information on the circumstances surrounding Paul's project. Information from other local Croats accords with the forensic evidence regarding the wound to his neck. Paul's injuries were entirely inconsistent with a long range sniper shot from Serbian positions – as local Croats claimed at the time. By the end of 1995, approximately 84 unarmed civilian reporters and media personnel (international & local) were believed to have been killed in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina during the previous four years.

© (1992) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
The text and graphical content of this and linked documents are the copyright of their author and or creator and site designer, Christopher Long, unless otherwise stated. No publication, reproduction or exploitation of this material may be made in any form prior to clear written agreement of terms with the author or his agents.

Christopher Long

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