Photojournalist’s Final Moments Revealed After His Missing Camera Resurfaces After 16 Years
A photojournalist’s final moments, which were the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning image, have been revealed after his camera resurfaced after 16 years missing.
On September 27, 2007, veteran Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai was taking photos of anti-military protests in Yangon, Myanmar at the height of the Saffron Revolution — when he was fatally shot by soldiers who opened fire on demonstrators.
Kenji Nagai of APF tries to take photographs as he lies injured after police and military officials fired upon pic.twitter.com/VwKGM0jqYK
— Boateng Duka Kofi (@DukaKofi) May 5, 2016
As he lay wounded on the ground, Nagai rolled onto his back and continued to take photographs of the events (see above photo).
The image of a dying Nagai still holding his camera up in one hand as protestors fleed in terror was captured by a Reuters photographer — who would later win a Pulitzer prize for snapping the moment.
However, the video camera that Nagai held in the iconic photo disappeared, along with the last images he filmed.
The Camera’s Return 16 Years Later
But on Wednesday, 16 years and a secret journey out of Myanmar later, the camera and its contents were handed back to Nagai’s family, who hope the footage will hold clues to the final moments of his life.
Unseen final footage of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai who was killed by Myanmar military in 2007 is unveiled after 16 years. #kenjinagai pic.twitter.com/eRLrwAhGTP
— Ken Kobayashi (@KenKobayashi) April 26, 2023
Some of the lost footage from the moments before the photojournalist was killed in the Myanmar protests has been released to the public for the first time.
In the never-before-seen footage that he filmed that day, Nagai records the moment trucks full of soldiers appear at Sule Pagoda.
Speaking to the camera, Nagai says: “The army has just arrived, and they are heavily armed. Yet more people are still gathering in front of the pagoda.”
These are the final words that Nagai speaks to the camera. Soon after that, the video stops.
‘A Journalist Who Was Willing to Keep Fighting’
“I think my brother threw himself right into the turmoil of the Saffron Revolution, convinced he could help Myanmar by letting the world know what was happening,” Nagi’s sister Noriko tells the BBC.
“I don’t think of him as a hero even though he lost his life. I would prefer people to remember him as a journalist who was willing to keep fighting.”
As a photojournalist, Nagai took many assignments in conflict zones and dangerous areas across the world. He was on assignment for the AFP when he arrived in Myanmar in 2007 to cover the protests.
Image credits: Featured photo via Wikimedia Commons.