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.

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.

Remembrances of Camille Lepage

I’m still shocked by the news of Camille Lepage’s death in Central African Republic last week. We finally met in person a few weeks ago at the New York Times Lens Portfolio Review. It’s been tough to see her picture all over social media, but it’s good to see her infectious smile and her work reach so many.

There has been little new information regarding her death, though this Le Monde article has more detail than most publications, and Google Translate does a passable job on it. A number of publications and individuals have published thoughtful remembrances of Camille and her work in the past few days (and I’m sure many more in French, as well), and I thought it’d be good to collect the links here.

The UN, Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists, have all condemned the killing and joined calls for an investigation into Lepage’s killing. Reports seem to indicate that the people she was travelling with were ambushed and all were killed. Immediately after news of her death became known, French president François Hollande called the killing a murder or assassination, and called for an investigation into the circumstances of her killing. Camille Lepage is not the only journalist to have been killed this year. As of this writing, Reporters Without Borders lists 18 journalists killed in 2014, and the Committee to Protect Journalists reports 15. Those killed have been both foreign and local journalists.