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Veteran Globe reporter Elizabeth Neuffer killed in car accident in Iraq
By Globe Staff, 5/9/2003
Elizabeth Neuffer, an award-winning reporter for The Boston Globe, was killed today in an automobile accident in Iraq while on assignment there covering the aftermath of the war.
Neuffer, 46, died when the car in which she was a passenger apparently struck a guardrail near the town of Samarra, about halfway between Tikrit and Baghdad. Neuffer was returning to Baghdad from an overnight trip to Tikrit, where she was reporting a story on efforts to rid Iraq of the influence of the Ba’ath Party. The story was scheduled for publication this Sunday.
Neuffer’s translator, Waleed Khalifa Hassan Al-Dulami, also died in the accident. The driver, Saad Al-Azzayi, survived.
Neuffer, whose career as a journalist had taken her to hotspots around the world including Afghanistan, Rwanda and Bosnia, was known as a savvy, determined and fearless reporter who was relentless in her pursuit of a story.
"All of us in the Globe’s newsroom are devastated by the news of Elizabeth’s death. She was brilliant and courageous," said Globe editor Martin Baron. "Wherever there was news in the world, Elizabeth wanted to go. She made a specialty of covering war crimes, human rights and the struggles of fractured nations. Her energy seemed limitless, and her reports were eloquent with insight. Our hearts go out to Elizabeth’s family and her longtime partner, Peter Canellos, our bureau chief in Washington. All of us share their grief. We have lost an exceptional journalist, a treasured colleague and a wonderful friend. We also mourn the death of her translator, Waleed, who has been so helpful to our correspondents in Iraq."
Globe Publisher Richard Gilman added to those sentiments, saying: "Elizabeth Neuffer was among that cadre of reporters who are at their best when the danger is greatest. With virtually no regard for their personal safety, they feel compelled to be wherever in the world that news may be occurring. The Globe is fortunate to have people with that bravery. We were fortunate to have Elizabeth and it is devastating to all of us that she is gone. We will forever remember her for her career of heroic and distinguished reporting, which for many years has given insight to our readers and great distinction to the pages of this newspaper."
The Globe’s foreign editor, James F. Smith, said: "Elizabeth was far more than an outstanding journalist. She wanted to make the world a better place. She wrote about the world’s most vexing problems – genocide in Rwanda, suffering in Bosnia and Kosovo – and she won many prizes along the way. From her base at the United Nations, Elizabeth covered the diplomacy surrounding the Iraq war last fall, but then she made sure she got to Baghdad for several weeks before the war began so she could tell readers what the Iraqi people were thinking and feeling. She wrote with grace and conviction and empathy. She was our friend, too – funny, caring, always worrying about her colleagues and their safety. We will miss her terribly."
Neuffer began her distinguished career with The Boston Globe in 1988. Over the years, she was a federal courts reporter, covered the Persian Gulf War in 1991, reported on the fall of the Soviet Union and the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev, worked in the Globe’s Washington bureau where she covered the Clinton Administration’s efforts to reform health care, served in Berlin as the paper’s European correspondent, and mostly recently worked as the paper’s United Nations correspondent and roving foreign correspondent. Most recently, she reported extensively from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.
In 1997, Neuffer won the SAIS-Novartis Prize for Excellence in International Journalism for "Buried Truth," a 10-part series of articles on war crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda. Paul Wolfowitz, then dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and now deputy defense secretary in the Bush administration, said at the time that the series demonstrated "exceptional qualities of reportorial perseverance, courage and commitment and brought important, unresolved issues to the public’s attention."
Neuffer was a 1998 winner of the Courage in Journalism Award granted by the International Women’s Media Foundation. Judges noted that she "has been menaced by gun-toting rebels, subjected to death threats, abducted by soldiers, robbed and threatened with rape." She explained then her philosophy about truth: "The truth may be hazardous to those who tell it, but truth is not dangerous, disinformation is. As I saw in Bosnia and Rwanda, it is propaganda that fans the flames of hatred."
Elizabeth was an Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of a book about war crimes and post-war justice, "The Keys to My Neighbor’s House" (Picador, 2001). The book follows several people from the battlefield to the courtroom as they seek justice before the newly created ad hoc war crimes tribunals in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Prior to joining the Globe, Neuffer was a freelancer for The New York Times and Time magazine from London. Before becoming a journalist, she worked in Washington as deputy press secretary to US Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT).
She graduated with honors from Cornell University, with a degree in history. She also earned a master’s degree in political philosophy from the London School of Economics. She spoke French, German and Russian.