I was deeply saddened to find out that photojournalist Tim Hetherington, director of the amazing documentary, Restrepo, died in Libya today. I've been especially touched because two weeks ago, I met a western photojournalist who had just returned from Libya.
I was in Tbilisi in Georgia (the country) on a delegation with fellow tech-minded New Yorkers. We were there to learn about the major reforms and challenges of this new nation and offer our take on building an entrepreneurial culture, more open media and tech environment and the relationship of Georgia to the West. Among the people we met during our whirlwind tour was a photographer named Thomas. He had spent the past several weeks in Libya with the rebels.
I had already been in some pretty awesome conversations with documentary filmmaker and now-presidential advisor Raphael Glucksmann who explained that much of what happened in Egypt's revolution was due to counseling by Serbia's non-violent revolutionaries. (BTW, they had studied King and Ghandi heavily). But, back to Thomas.
Thomas is a world-traveling chronicler of revolutions. He has been present in Serbia, Georgia, Chechnya and likely beyond. So here I had in my presence someone who was on the ground in a tumultuous part of the world where my own president had decided to intervene militarily, and I wanted to know what he thought, specifically about the rebels.
So I asked him, "What's your impression of the rebels in Libya?"
He shook his head. "Honestly?" he asked.
"Yes, I really want to know."
"Give me 50 Chechens, and this will be over in a week," he pronounced. "They fought the Russians for over a decade. They know what to do in these situations." He continued, explaining that the Libya opposition was extremely disorganized and without significant leadership, weapons and training, was unlikely to prevail.
There's no massive moral I'm trying to communicate here. But I was extremely fortunate to have this interaction on the other side of the world, and I gained even more respect for all journalists who put themselves in harms way to tell stories that need to be told.