AFP publishes strategy for covering ISIS, states agency will no longer work with freelancers in Syria

[I]f someone travels to Syria and offers us images or information when they return, we will not use it.”
AFP Global News Director Michèle Léridon, Covering the “Islamic State”

Agence France-Presse’s Global News Director Michèle Léridon just published a fascinating article on how the wire service covers the emerging Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) on AFP’s Correspondent blog. AFP is currently the only international news agency with a bureau in Damascus. Since August 2013, AFP has stopped sending their journalists to rebel-held territories within Syria. The post also says, “we no longer accept work from freelance journalists who travel to places where we ourselves would not venture….[I]f someone travels to Syria and offers us images or information when they return, we will not use it.”

The rest of Léridon’s post details how AFP handles handout pictures from ISIS, AFP’s efforts to find images of ISIS’ victims’ lives before their deaths, and what language to use in coverage of the region. For those of you like me who find media studies interesting, the post is worth reading for the peek it gives behind the curtain of covering one of the most dangerous regions in the world.

After the recent ISIS beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines, there’s been increased awareness of the dangers faced by freelance journalists covering conflicts. Allison Shelley wrote a great Op-Ed for the LA Times about the issue: The dangerous world of freelance journalism. As with much of the other discussion, Shelley’s piece looks at the increasing role freelancers play in covering the world’s news and the lack of resources available to freelancers as compared to the support given staff journalists covering conflict (which we’ve covered previously).

Other publications have published articles recently about the issues, as well: The Washington Post, the BBC, CNN (speaking with Tina Carr, director of the Rory Peck Trust), and NBC News. On the Media also has a good look at how imagery of ISIS arrives in American publications, and Fresh Air’s interview with NYT Baghdad Bureau Chief Tim Arango offers a look at how the New York Times covers the group.

Digiday also has a look at how news startups such as Buzzfeed and Vice have been covering ISIS. Vice is a particularly interesting case because they seem to have gotten the closest access to ISIS in their 5-part series on the group. Vice editors spoke with the Huffington Post about how Vice was able to gain access.

PBS MediaShift also has a great article on the subject of the dangers of freelance journalism in Syria, though it was published in April 2014. Vanity Fair’s piece on the disappearances of Austin Tice and James Foley, published in May 2014, is also worth a read.

And while you’re at it, read Tom A. Peter‘s article in the New Republic: Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Risk.

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