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.

Legal battles continue over ownership of Vivian Maier’s work

The legal case to determine whether Mr. Baille is Maier’s closest relative has now set in motion a process that Chicago officials say could take years and could result in Maier’s works’ being pulled from gallery inventories and museum shows until a determination is made.”
The Heir’s Not Apparent, New York Times

I wrote about the legal issues surrounding the rightful heir and owner of Vivian Maier‘s substantial body of work last year. The New York Times just published an overview of where the subject stands now, detailing a legal case filed in June 2014 which might force John Maloof and other owners of Maier’s negatives to cease publications and exhibitions of the work. In short, Virginia lawyer David C. Deal, himself a former photographer, thought that something wasn’t right in the way Maier’s copyright had been handled and searched for relatives of the nanny.

Screenshot of VivianMaier.com, the John Maloof collection
Screenshot of VivianMaier.com, the John Maloof collection

Maloof, owner of the largest collection of Maier’s negatives and prints (and producer and director of Finding Vivian Maier and countless exhibitions), had previously found a person in France who he’d thought was Maier’s closest living relative and agreed on an undisclosed settlement for the rights to the work. Deal believes he has found a closer relative of Maier’s, again in France, and now represents that person in a court case to determine whether or not he is the photographer’s closest heir. It’s a tangled case that will likely take years, but at the heart is a copyright issue.

The Vivian Maier industry (in the form of books, exhibitions, prints for sale, movies, television programs, and so on) is already worth millions of dollars. If this new possible heir is determined to be the rightful owner of the copyright, it could lead to substantial copyright infringement claims relating to most every instance of Vivian Maier’s work that has been seen in public. According to the New York Times, the state public administrator’s office in Cook County, Illinois, created an estate for Vivian Maier in July and warned Maloof and others selling the work that there may be future lawsuits over Maier’s work.

Hyperallergic also recently published a couple of articles regarding the legal issues surrounding Vivian Maier’s archive that are worth a read: Making Sense of the Legal Battle Over Vivian Maier’s Artworks and A Vivian Maier Collector Opens Up About Posthumous Printing, Maier’s Only Heir, and Her Legacy.

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.