Monday, March 22, 2010

Margaret Moth, warzone photojournalist for CNN. 1951-2010

ATLANTA – CNN photojournalist Margaret Moth, who survived a near-fatal gunshot wound to the face while filming in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the wars there in the early 1990s, died Sunday. She was 59.

CNN spokesman Nigel Pritchard confirmed that Moth died in Rochester, Minn., where she was in hospice care. A CNN obituary says she had suffered from colon cancer for three years.

Moth, a camerawoman, was seriously wounded by sniper fire that hit a CNN van in July 1992 in Sarajevo. After several reconstructive surgeries, she returned to the war-torn country two years later, according to a documentary on her life. She was among scores of journalists hurt or killed covering the conflict in Bosnia and Croatia during the violent breakup of Yugoslavia.

Born Margaret Wilson in Gisborne, New Zealand, she later changed her name to Margaret Gipsy Moth. She said in the September 2009 CNN documentary, "Fearless: the Margaret Moth Story," that she wanted to have her own name, not the one people are given because of their fathers. Moth also was a skydiver and would jump from a Tiger Moth airplane, she said.

She said she got her first camera when she was 8. She came to the U.S. and worked for KHOU in Houston, Texas, for about seven years before starting with CNN in 1990.

Her colleagues said she inspired them with her toughness, humor and quirky style that included always wearing black clothes that went with her jet-black hair, thick black eyeliner and combat boots that she often wore while she slept in war zones.

"I don't think Margaret could ever look back and say, 'What if?'" said Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent. "She did it to the max, and she did it brilliantly. And she did it on her terms."

Moth also covered the Israeli invasion of the West Bank in 2002, the rioting that followed Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984 and other conflicts around the world, including several in the Middle East, according to CNN. When militiamen opened fire on protesters in Tbilisi, Georgia, CNN said she stood her ground and kept her camera running.

She said she was angered by those who said she had a death wish because she chose to work in combat zones.

"I was always very careful. I never saw myself as a daredevil or someone who would be stupid about things," she said in the documentary.

In Sarajevo, the van in which Moth was riding was on the route between the city and the airport, known as "sniper alley." The bullet shattered her jaw, blew out her teeth and destroyed part of her tongue. She said the wound left her forever sounding like she was drunk. CNN then-Rome bureau chief Mark Dulmage also was wounded.

Moth, who knew her cancer was terminal, said in the documentary that she felt she could die with dignity.

"The important thing is to know that you've lived your life to the fullest ... You could be a billionaire, and you couldn't pay to do the things we've done."

As an admirer of her work on CNN, all I can say is her work will be missed.

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