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Paul Mason's Idle Scrawl

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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Admiration for the man as you describe him, as much as for your descriptive skill.

I really don't know what else to say.

We're very shocked and sad tonight that we won't be able to work with Martin again.

Martin's integrity and skill as a journalist was to take the time to capture the full, human complexity of the story.

Of all the coverage from that period, the Niger delta piece he did for Newsnight explains the story with the most humanity and in the most depth.

Martin's work stands as a shining example of how independent, thoughtful journalism can change our understanding of why conflicts happen.

It's the outlook of journalists like Martin Adler that makes facing the dangers of reporting in such situations all the more justified.

  • 4.
  • At 09:20 PM on 24 Jun 2006,
  • Razina wrote:

Deepest love and sympathy to Martin's family.

I am sorry to hear about Matin Adler's Death. He told the truth and was an example of what should be journalism.

  • 6.
  • At 10:49 PM on 24 Jun 2006,
  • Myra Lieberman wrote:

I knew Martin as a little boy, enthusiastic about the world. Last time I saw him in London at his mother's flat - he was preparing to go on another exciting adventure.Thank God for his enthusiasim.I followed his career and was always glad to receive newspaper clippings sent by my friends in Sweden, including his mother.I watched his reports on the TV, here.I was deeply saddened to hear about his death yesterday.All those who knew him will miss his outlook on the world.Rest in Peace Martin.

He was almost too good looking to be behind the camera and we would talk about how he seemed to have it all; the beautiful wife and daughters, a decent income, a home and family he planned everything around.

Martin was almost beyond cool. He always seemed to have the best gigs and somehow we managed to admire, but never envy him, something rare in a very competitive game.

I suppose I can hold my head high and say I am the better man for having known him and having been inspired by him, as I am sure his formidable legacy will go on to inspire many others.

I like to imagine there is another place where all the brave journalists go who make the world a better place, by going that extra mile to make those who suffer injustice feel someone cares for their plight, who risk it all to get the news that matters out into the light. I'm sure Martin is there, with many others who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I can't imagine they are sitting around, bored, polishing their lenses for the umpteenth time because that is not their style. They could never sit still, so I suppose it is a place of infinite wonder and endless possibility, of formidable challenge and just reward, but devoid of sorrow, because there's enough of that on this earth.

Peace, brother and I'll see you there.

My deepest sympathy to Martin's family.
I worked with him in Iraq

  • 9.
  • At 09:54 PM on 28 Jun 2006,
  • Jonathan Featherstone wrote:

Martin and I became good friends whilst at University in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Along with Bill and Toby we were quite a close group - Martin went back to Sweden, Toby ended up in New York, Bill in Mombasa and I remained in London - yet Martin and I always were in touch. I loved to hear stories of his exciting travels and although I new he covered some of the worlds hotspots I always thought that somehow no harm would come to such a kind, good and generous person.
Martin I will never forget you.


  • 10.
  • At 04:18 PM on 03 Jul 2006,
  • Janie Hampton wrote:

I am writing an obituary of my cousin Martin Adler for the Independent.
Please may I quote you from this blog?

Janie Hampton

  • 11.
  • At 07:00 AM on 12 Aug 2006,
  • per øberg wrote:

why ?
there is no answer.We meet in Kabul.We meeet in brogården cafe in væsterås.Discussion about our jobs.
We argeu about the risks,but no everthing is end.I will miss you martin.
per øberg sweden

  • 12.
  • At 11:26 AM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Ahmed wrote:

this was for the first time that Martin Adler intered in the peacefull demonistration and i was the first man who captured pic from him

  • 13.
  • At 03:51 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Paul Conroy wrote:

I met Martin in Syria, we were both trying to find a way into Iraq just before the bombing started.

Great guy, brave man, I will miss him.
Cheers mate,

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