Citing risks of working there, Sunday Times tells freelancer paper won’t buy pictures from Syria

After submitting pictures from Aleppo this week Rick Findler was told by the foreign desk that “it looks like you have done some exceptional work” but “we have a policy of not taking copy from Syria as we believe the dangers of operating there are too great”. –Sunday Times tells freelances [sic] not to submit photographs from Syria

The British newspaper, The Sunday Times, has told a freelance photographer not to submit photos from Syria because the risk of working there is too great. After sending pictures from Aleppo, Syria, to the paper for consideration, conflict photographer Rick Findler was told that the paper has a policy not to look at non-commissioned reporting from the country. It’s an interesting development for the photojournalism industry, especially since closures of foreign bureaus have increased news publications’ reliance on freelancers for international reporting. Conflict reporting is a dangerous and expensive operation, and when things go bad freelancers lack the institutional support afforded to staff reporters.

Speaking to the Press Gazette, The Sunday Times policy deputy foreign editor Graeme Paterson cited just these concerns in explaining the paper’s policy against hiring freelancers to cover Syria or license their work from the region even after the reporter has gotten out of the country. Speaking on the matter, Paterson said, “…we take the same view regarding freelancers speccing in material. Even if they have returned home safely. This is because it could be seen as encouragement go out and take unnecessary risks in the future. The situation out there is incredibly risky. And we do not want to see any more bloodshed. There has been far too much already.”

4 Responses to “Citing risks of working there, Sunday Times tells freelancer paper won’t buy pictures from Syria”

  1. Chris Barton

    I thought this sounded like a very odd policy from a national newspaper, and thought there must be something more to it than concern for the photographer/s welfare….

    I then spotted this quote from Warren Allott at the Telegraph:

    “I heard a rumour that a freelance who’d submitted copy to another broadsheet and, then got kidnapped, claimed to be working for them. This caused the paper enormous problems and now they are steering clear of freelance copy.”

    Makes more sense – sounds like The Sunday Times is just covering their butt – not really anything to do with concern for the photographers/….

  2. John Hryniuk

    Years ago in the 90’s there was a magazine editor in Toronto who fell into a similar predicament. A young man just out of photojournalism college wanted to go to Yugoslavia to cover the conflict. The editor set him up with some contacts over there. Maybe the editor wasn’t thinking.. maybe he didn’t realize just how green this young man was. I’m not sure. There is a bit of a grey area there as to whether the editor encouraged him? or whether the young man was set to go with or without that encouragement. Either way the man had the ” Bang Bang ” drive that famous photojournalist David Hume Kennerly discussed in one his books about covering war.

    The young man with dreams of becoming as famous as James Nachtwey flew off to Yugoslavia and lasted about 2 days. He was standing on a bridge … when a shell came in and killed him instantly.

    Those were the days before ” everyone ” was a photographer.. when we were still shooting film. Now with the advent of digital photography there are more people out there chasing that dream. Its smart of a major newspaper to take a stand.

    I just read Rick Findler’s bio page ( the photographer who’s work wasn’t accepted by the paper.
    and It’s fairly clear why they wouldn’t accept it. He’s young and green.. and why encourage it?

  3. Must read: When a Kidnapped Journalist Is a Freelancer | dvafoto

    […] the past year, we’ve posted a few items about the increasing use of freelancers in conflict reporting. Using freelancers, publications save money and mitigate […]

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