Over the weekend, I reported on a former Marine I met in Afghanistan in 2002 during the early days of post-9/11 fighting there and who later became an accomplished writer and photographer in conflicts of that region before becoming a hostage of Syrians in 2012.
Today, we now mourn award-winning journalist and video documentarian Brent Renaud, a friend, and colleague I also met during that time in Afghanistan. He died while covering fighting between Russia and Ukraine in Irpin, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv. Andriy Nebitov, police chief of the region said Renaud was “shot dead” during violent clashes during the escalating war there.
Renaud was in the region working on Times Studios project about the global refugee project says Time magazine editor in chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal said Sunday.
“Our hearts are with all of Brent’s loved ones. It is essential that journalists are able to safely cover this ongoing invasion and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” Felsenthal said in a statement Sunday.
Documentary filmmaker Jon Alpert remembers Renaud as “a really nice guy with extraordinary courage who put his life on the line to film things people needed to see.” In Afghanistan, Renaud focused hard on the horror war and its effects on the young soldiers.
Adds Alpert in an interview with The Washington Post:
Once you see war and you understand what war’s really like, for decent-hearted people like him, it changes you, and you basically commit the rest of your life to having people understand what it’s really like.
Renaud, born in Memphis, grew up in Arkansas, was just 30 when we met in Afghanistan, but seemed older and wiser even then. He cared a lot about his subjects and worried about their safety. He and his brother worked together on many of his projects and were a team that won many well-earned awards.
He worked on assignments too, for The New York Times.
“Brave journalists like Brent take tremendous risks to bear witness and tell the world about the devastation and suffering caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” says Cliff Levy, deputy managing editor of the Times.
Several journalists were injured during fighting in Ukraine. Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsey and cameraman Richie Mockler were hit and hospitalized after coming under attack by a “saboteur Russian reconnaissance squad” in another Kyiv suburb. Renaud is believed to be the second known death of a journalist in the current fighting.
Independent journalist and filmmaker Christof Putzel, who knew Renaud for more than 15 years, said “he had a way of getting anybody comfortable, and to trust him enough to talk to him. He was the best of our profession.”
Putzel, in an interview with The Washington Post, added:
Nothing was more important to him than the truth and the story, and that is why he put his life on the line constantly. He cared that much.
Even so, Renaud told Curator magazine he was not a thrill seeker:
I don’t think we are adrenaline junkies like some of the war correspondents who we know. We don’t seek out the dangerous assignments. But once we are committed to a story, we are willing to do whatever it takes to tell that story.