Friday, November 9, 2018
The international exhibition "Fighters for Truth" depicts murdered and persecuted journalists to make sure they are not forgotten. The portraits are now on display at Nieuwspoort, the Hague.

In three years of drawing portraits, the one that has stuck with German artist Susanne Köhler the most is that of Christopher Allen. He was shot dead while covering the war in South Sudan, when rebel forces he had been embedded with clashed with government troops in August 2017. He was only 26.

"I realised that we would not have any information from this war if it wouldn't be for people like him," Köhler said. "My information is the risk they take - that's why I know the truth."

Köhler started her project after the attack on the offices of French publication Charlie Hebdo shocked Europe and the world. Since then, 21 artists have joined the Frankfurt-based artist. So far, they have created more than 150 portraits of journalists who were killed or imprisoned for their work.

There is no shortage of work for them: so far, 45 journalists have already been killed in 2018.

The artists' international exhibition called "Fighters for Truth" is now on display at Nieuwspoort, the Hague, until November 16. The portraits pay tribute to slain and persecuted journalists while making sure they are remembered.

"When journalists are killed they only get attention for a very small amount of time. After that the memory is gone," Köhler said.

"The idea of the exhibition was to remember their faces and their stories. You cannot kill the truth with the people."

Emotional portraits

Researching and drawing their subjects is a process that often stirs up emotions within the artists. Steff Murschetz particularly remembers drawing Luís Gustavo "Gugu" da Silva, a 25-year-old blogger from northeastern Brazil who reported on traffickers and criminals from his area and was shot dead outside his home in June 2017. 

"He had this big smile which reminded me of a friend. When you draw these people you get the feeling you get to know the character you're looking in the face for five hours," said Murschetz.

Fritz Giersbach was responsible for a very recent addition to the collection - he drew Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in Turkey in October. "A horrible case," he said.

"Fighters for Truth" was on display in the Netherlands for the first time at Free Press Live, our annual event to honour the international day to end impunity for crimes against journalists. Last May, the portraits travelled to Ghana for World Press Freedom Day. The artists would eventually like to build a memorial for press freedom where the exhibition can stay forever.

"Without journalists we don't have liberty, we don't have information about important things happening in the world," said Gerhard Keller, who helps the artists with organising their exhibitions. "Without journalists, we are blind."

"Fighters for Truth" is on display at Nieuwspoort until November 16. For more info, go here (in Dutch). Photos of the portraits are available on the collective's website.