Emma Daly Writes On Miguel's Death

"We are trying to tell the stories of the people who are going through the worst experiences in their lives," said Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, a tall, gangly, chain-smoking Catholic Spaniard who spent seven years experiencing horror, terror and grief in order to shine a harsh white light into the darkest corners of human existence, in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Congo, Sierra Leone.

Last month Miguel he was named cameraman of the year by the Royal Television Society, but he did not seek fame or fortune. As his mother said, "He felt his mission was to give voice to those who did not have one." And now he has been silenced by a group of gunmen who will surely never know the damage they have done. Miguel, recognised at 32 as one of the best television cameramen at work in war zones, was killed on Wednesday, along with another great colleague and friend, Kurt Schork, during an ambush near the front line in Sierra Leone.

And "mission" was surely the right word to use: Miguel would have worked for free - and practically did, for the first few months of his remarkable journalistic career, which began amid the misery of Mostar in Bosnia, in 1993. Sick of seeing the hideous images beamed to an apparently unmoved world, Miguel quit his job as a corporate lawyer in Barcelona, mounted his motor-bike and rode to Mostar via Croatia.

He lived with a local family, in the cellar to avoid the relentless shelling, recording their experiences on paper - without a job, he was equipped with only the basics and without the expense account most of us. Miguel began to file stories to La Vanguardia, the Barcelona daily, and then to El Mundo in Madrid.

I remember meeting him early in 1994, when I had just arrived in Bosnia - his goodness, his eagerness to learn and his dedication to the job ensured that he had made friends with the veteran reporters living in Sarajevo. Everybody liked Miguel, everybody.

He helped out when and how he could - and it was clear, very quickly, that Miguel was a great logistician, which is fantastically important in a war zone. In the spring of 1994, the Bosnian Serbs closed the only road out of Sarajevo (accessible only to foreigners and smugglers) and the airport. The siege was complete.

Those of us trapped outside in central Bosnia panicked about how to get back in - and up popped Miguel. He had found a dirt road over Mount Igman, looming above Sarajevo, which was used by the Bosnian Army as a supply route, hopped on his bike and roared into the city. Over the next 18 months, that track became our lifeline, even if it sat uncomfortably under the Serbian guns.

The television news agency WTN quickly picked up on Miguel's intelligence and initiative, and hired him as a driver and fixer, before moving to the newly created Associated Press Television in a similiar post. Then along came Mike Sposito, another legendary cameraman whose fondess for dissipation was at complete odds with Miguel's asutere life-style. Sposito gave him a camera and set him to work - and Miguel proved himself a natural.

Once the Bosnian war had ended, AP sent Miguel to Istanbul, the base from which he would work as a roving cameraman-producer, and then to Africa. But although he covered several conflicts there, including Sierra Leone, his heart remained in the Balkans and he was back in Kosovo at the first hint of fighting. His images of the nascent KLA in action won him one of the industry's most prestigious prizes - the Rory Peck Award named for another freelance cameraman killed in action.

In January 1999, Myles Tierney, another APTN producer who was covering Sierra Leone while Miguel was in Kosovo, was killed in depressingly similar circumstances. Miguel, devastated at losing a close friend, also felt guilty. He thought the bullet that killed Myles should have been destined for him.

By the end of the year Miguel was heading to Chechnya - after several attempts he finally got into Grozny, the only Westerner there to record the horrors on film. "Every day... I met, filmed or gave cigarettes to people who were dead by the next morning," he wrote. "Every minute of every day you think you are going to die."

But he survived. In March 1999, we were all in the Grand Hotel together, awaiting the Nato bombing campaign when we heard that Serb paramilitaries had arrived, looking for Kurt and other journalists. We decided to leave, we hoped temporarily, but Miguel managed to persuade the local Serbian authorities that he should stay as a pool cameraman.

That afternoon, he saw Serif Turgut, a Turkish journalist who had also arrived penniless and jobless in Sarajevo, and who had by now built a successful career as a television reporter. "He screamed at me, are you stupid? Get out of here," she said yesterday. An hour later, he was back and the two ended up sharing a room throughout the bombing campaign, like brother and sister.

"One night we were on the fourth floor, on the evening Nato bombed the police station. It was dark, and we were all scared to go out, and then something whistled past our window, really close, and there was a huge explosion," she said. "We hid in the bathroom, hugging, we had no idea what was going - we had never heard a missile landing 250m away. And then we just started laughing, making jokes about how we had to decide how to die - by Nato bombs or paramilitaries."

When they finally left the room, they were seized by a gunman who marched them downstairs - the pair were only saved by the intervention of a waiter from the hotel. And I am willing to bet that in Freetown there were many locals who would also have known Miguel, who would have argued with a gunman, in order to save him. That nobody had that chance this week is a loss to all of us, to his family and friends, to the millions of television viewers moved by his anonymous pictures but most of all to the countless people in far-flung countries whose stories he will never have a chance to tell.