IN MEMORY OF KIM WALL (1987-2017) THE FIRST PLACE AWARDEE IN THE 2013 FOREIGN PRESS SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS
By Joanna Nurmis (AKA Joanna Margueritte-Giecewicz)
I met Kim on 9th May, 2013 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. We went there to receive our awards in the Foreign Press Association’s 2013 Scholarship Award ceremony – she had First Place, two students Second Place, and two others, including me, Third Place. (View photo, below).
We were all very excited to be there and to be honored at a fancy dinner with our invited guests and prominent journalists in attendance. I shared a table with Kim and the other awardees, and I remember very well the impression she made on me: that of an extremely confident, lively, friendly, and attentive person who was both completely present and relishing the moment, and at the same time not consumed by it, not completed by it. I knew there was much more to Kim than I could see. Yet she had not a hint of arrogance about holding First Place; rather, she was there to share in the celebration of young foreigners studying journalism in the United States.
Today while taking a break from work to read the news, I stumbled upon a story about the development in the freak death of a Swedish journalist – and I started paying attention. For the first time, the journalist’s name caught my eye. I suddenly realized, in a way you realize something that you know there is no way can be explained away, definitively and instantly: she was the victim. The Kim I knew from that dinner four years ago, and whom I still vividly remember.
Many are underscoring how this tragic, ghastly death brings the perils of freelancing, especially for women, to the forefront – and not just in dangerous places like Sri Lanka and North Korea, where Kim also went, but even in “home territory,” in the comforts of a developed country – Denmark. Kim was well aware of risks and like many freelancers, had HEFAT (hostile environment and first aid) training. It didn’t help her on August 10, 2017.
Since the early 2000s, as staffing positions for journalists across the board are being cut, the numbers of freelancers have been rising dramatically. The most important issue for them, apart from income instability, is safety and security. Kim was in contact with one of her editors in New York before embarking on her ride on the submarine, but no organization was formally entrusted with overseeing her safety that day.
My heart grieves for a woman I barely knew, a woman I had the privilege of sharing a meal with. I read every single tribute posted to her memory on the website:
I would like to draw your attention to the grant that her family is setting up to support female journalists wishing to cover a subculture. Please consider engaging with this initiative. Considering what was done to her body, to say: “Remember Kim” takes on an acute meaning. Indeed, may we never stop re-membering her. In our memory may she live on whole and full of life: a beloved daughter, sister, friend and courageous global reporter.
Kim Wall (center), First Place Awardee in the 2013 FPA Scholarship Awards, at the May 9, 2013 Awards Dinner in New York City, surrounded by the other Awardees. From left: Joanna Nurmis (ex Margueritte-Giecewicz) – author of this tribute, Silvia Higuera, Anders Melin, and Jamie Lee.