Photojournalist Ed Kashi, 48, on assignment for National Geographic in Nigeria, was released Monday morning by security officials in Port Harcourt after being held since Friday, according to his wife, Julie Winokur, a writer and producer. She told News Photographer that Kashi called her immediately after being released and that he's unharmed.
Kashi was arrested Friday and detained for photographing an oil facility at the Obama flow station in Bayelsa state, a facility operated by the Italian oil company Agip, according to National Geographic and Reuters.
"He's shaken up but fine, and he was just released," Julie Winokur told News Photographer on Monday morning. "He's with the two human rights workers who have been fighting on his behalf, two Nigerians who have been making the calls and working to get him released, Oranto Douglas and Dimieari Von Kemedi," she said. "Yesterday Ed was transfered to a state security office, and that actually sped things up. He said that once he got there, they were very professional and that he was treated well."
Winokur said Kashi intends to remain in Nigeria for the duration of his trip and continue to photograph the story. He's due to return to the States next week.
Winokur said that Kashi and his Nigerian assistant were in a boat and were photographing an oil flare at an Agip facility Friday in an ocean oil field when the Nigerian navy picked them up. "They have now determined that he was doing nothing illegal and that he was within his bounds," Winokur said this morning. "So he's going to keep shooting."
Calls from Washington, as well as the local efforts by human rights workers, led to Kashi's release. “We are working on the situation as best we can from here,” National Geographic senior editor and director of photography David Griffin told News Photographer on Sunday morning.
This was Kashi’s third trip to the area while working on the Geographic story, and he’d been there about a month this time photographing oil platforms and refineries before Friday’s incident.
The first news of Kashi's arrest came from a rights group, Our Niger Delta, who said that Kashi and his Nigerian assistant were detained Friday and that they were in the custody of the Nigerian navy. Dimieari Von Kemedi of Our Niger Delta was quoted by Reuters as saying, “They said he did not obtain permission to take pictures of the facility and that the area is volatile and he could have been kidnapped.” Reuters says that kidnapping of foreign oil workers is common in the Niger Delta.
“They say every day that they will release them but they still haven’t,” Kemedi told Reuters. He said the navy told him that the detainees would be taken to the navy regional headquarters in the oil city of Port Harcourt on Sunday for more questioning.
Foreigners have been warned by militants who are fighting a campaign of violence against the oil industry to stay away from the region. Reuters reports that the campaign of bloody attacks on oil facilities and kidnappings of oil workers has cut Nigerian oil output by a quarter since February.
The rights group says the violence against the oil industry in Nigeria is fuelled by poverty, lawlessness, corruption, and struggles for control over a lucrative business of stolen oil.
Kashi and Winokur often work on projects together, including an eight-year project, Aging in America: The Years Ahead, published in 2003 by PowerHouse Books. He has a degree in photojournalism from Syracuse University and his photographs have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Time, Fortune, Geo, Newsweek, and many other publications. He has published nine major stories in National Geographic during his career, and he was a speaker this year at NPPA's Northern Short Course in Cherry Hill, NJ.