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Martin Adler: superb, brave journalist. Realist.

  • Paul Mason
  • 23 Jun 06, 05:27 PM

Martin Adler, an award winning freelance journalist, was shot and killed in Mogadishu earlier today. I worked with Martin on a report on the revolt by the people of the Niger Delta against the oil companies whose wealth has so conspicuously not trickled down. The Newsnight team's visas had been sat on by the Nigerian government but Martin went in on a tourist visa and shot an incredible 12 minute film. We bought the rights to it and he and I worked on the script of the film together. I learned a lot from Martin: he had just won the Rory Peck Award for Charlie Company - an embed film with the US military.

Martin's approach to video journalism is the opposite to the way most mainstream media works: you go there, get the footage using little battered video cameras, you don't shoot "sequences" - you shoot the truth. He went on and on at me in the edit about the film director Lars von Trier and his philopsophy of Dogma, Rule Three of which says:

The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).

Initial reports say that it was with camera in hand that Martin was shot by an assailant in the midst of an otherwise peaceful demonstration today. Martin worked freelance - going to the places corporate media are wary of, then selling the story to the highest bidder. He is one of a small clan of elite world affairs journalists who can shoot, write, produce, edit. Because of Martin, and people like him, we know a bit of the truth about what conflict does: it senselessly kills people, degrades them

I will remember him not just for the stories he got but for the way he told them - every work was an act of authorship. Of that clan he was the least scarred and cynical.

I can see him now, sitting in an edit suite, spinning through his own footage, debating with me whether we had been "true" to one of the subjects in the piece. Making calls about the next dangerous trip he was about to make. Going on about Lars Von Trier, truth and reality.

He put himself, his hand-held camera, his intellect and sense of humour in the way of the world's meanest people and horrible situations.

A senseless gesture by a man with a gun in a lawless, poverty stricken country has killed him. Thanks to Martin, millions of people understand why such senseless gestures are made, why countries are poverty stricken, and who supplies the guns.

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