Journalist blames inexperienced photographer in Steven Sotloff kidnapping

Though he admitted to me that he had never worked in conflict, [Yves Choquette] was quick to add that he had photographed student protests in Montreal. Now he had come to Kilis intending to enter the world’s deadliest war zone”

-Ben Taub, The Daily Beast

Late last week, the Daily Beast published a piece by Ben Taub titled “Was U.S. Journalist Steven Sotloff a Marked Man?” In the article, Taub describes the actions of a freelance journalist (named “Alex” for the article, but later revealed to be Montreal photographer Yves Choquette) who he says compromised the identity of his fixer on the Syria/Turkey border and led to the kidnapping of Sotloff. Taub alleges that the photographer was reckless in his attempts to enter Syria, randomly searching Facebook for people with opposition flags in their profiles to take him across the border. He told these people the name of the fixer he was using, and a few days later Sotloff and that fixer were abducted just over the Syrian border. Choquette did not enter Syria after hearing other warnings, including that militants in Syria knew his location, nationality, and details of his plans to enter the country.

Choquette outed himself in an interview with the Globe and Mail in which he disputes the allegations of inexperience and recklessness. CBCNews also has coverage.

Sotloff remains in captivity, presumably in Syria, after he was seen in the James Foley execution video. The Wire has collected a few links to stories about Sotloff including remembrances by friends who knew him in college.

Worth a read: Journalist recounts her sexual assault by a colleague on her first night in Ukraine

“I was halfway through talking about the political situation in Britain when the Very Respected Journalist called me ‘baby’ (really, people can say that without irony?) and shoved his beer-and-whisky-churned-together tongue down my throat. After unironically ‘baby’-ing me a few more times, the Very Respected Journalist pushed me towards his bedroom…. This was the third country in which I’d cried in a shower and checked my body for bruises as a by-product of trying to become a journalist.” -anonymous, First Night in Kyiv

Last week, Balkanist magazine published an account by a young presumably-British journalist’s of her sexual assault by a colleague on the night of her arrival in Kyiv, Ukraine, to cover the political situation there. The piece is well worth a read, raising important points about what women face working in the male-dominated field of conflict journalism.

Sexual assaults against female journalists are rarely discussed. And while the public should not expect detailed accounts of such personal matters (for instance, Amanda Lindhout’s 460 days held captive in Somalia involved horrors and atrocities some of which she says she’ll never share), sexual violence against female journalists, such as the horrific attack against Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, is an important part of the discussion of dangers faced by reporters around the world.

Photojournalist Camille Lepage Killed in Central African Republic

Camille Lepage, a 26-year old French photojournalist, has died in Central African Republic. The Guardian reports that French President Hollande has said “all necessary means will be deployed to shine light on the circumstances of this assassination and find the killers of our compatriot.”

Camille Lepage leaving a fishing village on the Nile River near Terekeka, South Sudan in September 2012. Photo by Matt Lutton.

I don’t have much to say right now. So read Nicholas Kulish piece on the New York Times’ Lens Blog: “Bearing Witness, Losing Her Life”. He describes how he came to meet Lepage in Juba, South Sudan. I had a very similar experience, and we were both left impressed by this young journalist.

We at dvafoto have known Camille for a couple of years and have been following her work and career closely. We published an interview with her in March 2013, “Notes from the Field: Camille Lepage in South Sudan”. We talked about her decision to move to South Sudan straight from journalism school in England and her motivation to cover seemingly unknown conflicts and the struggles of trying to get those stories published. I urge you to have a look at this interview to learn more about Lepage and see a gallery of her work.

Camille was a hardworking and ambitious young journalist already producing quality stories that hadn’t yet found a wide audience. She was working to bring these stories to more people’s attention. Her future was very bright, and we at dvafoto are extremely saddened by this news.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.