Tag Archive: Syria

Must read: When a Kidnapped Journalist Is a Freelancer

“Publishers reap all the rewards of working with freelancers, but assume none of the risks. If something terrible happens at any point leading up to, or following the transaction, the publisher bears no responsibility.” -Jaron Gilinsky, When a Kidnapped Journalist Is a Freelancer

In 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 risk, shifting the substantial risks, both personal and financial, to vulnerable and often young freelancers. If you haven’t already, spend a few minutes with Jaron Gilinsky‘s piece When a Kidnapped Journalist Is a Freelancer. Gilinsky is CEO of Storyhunter, a website that helps freelance video journalists pitch and showcase their work.

In the piece, Gilinsky details a few recent cases of freelance conflict reporters who’ve been kidnapped or killed in recent years. Ali Mustafa‘s family was saddled with $20,000 in debt just to retrieve the young photographer’s body from Syria, and the photo agencies who bought his pictures offered no help. Both James Foley (previously) and Austin Tice have been missing for years; the Global Post has helped Foley’s family search for the reporter, but the Washington Post has apparently done little to find their stringer. Molhelm Barakat (previously) was killed while stringing for Reuters without hazardous situation training, insurance, or protective gear, and he may have been under 18.

Gilinsky offers the most detail in contrasting the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping of journalists Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova in Syria. Espinosa is a staff reporter El Mundo, but Vilanova is a freelancer who has worked with Gilinsky’s Storyhunter website. Both were eventually released after six months in captivity, but the ordeal played out differently for the two journalists. Because he was a staffer, Espinosa’s family received his full salary and benefits throughout his captivity. For Vilanova, on the other hand, debt began to pile up as his studio rent, home mortgage, and other financial obligations began to pile up. There was no news organization to lend financial or legal resources to any negotiations that might have helped secure his release or provide for his family or funeral should the need arise. Friends and family created a crowdfunding campaign which raised nearly €40,000 as of this writing, which will pay Vilanova’s debts and allow him to purchase new gear to resume working.

Ultimately, Gilinsky argues that there needs to be systemic change within journalism to make it so freelancers no longer feel the need to undertake such substantial risk to make a living in the industry. He says publications and news organizations should require (and provide) insurance and conflict training to freelancers, and freelancers should refuse to work with publications that work with uninsured journalists. Last year, the Sunday Times said it would not buy work from Syria from freelancers, and other organizations should do the same. And organizations such as RISC, the Rory Peck Trust, and Reporters Without Borders, offer training and support to freelance conflict journalists.

Make sure to read Gilinsky’s piece.

BagNewsNotes looks at recent graphic execution images from Syria

Time Lightbox's warning about graphic images in their gallery showing an execution in Syria

Time Lightbox’s warning about graphic images in their gallery showing an execution in Syria

“Is it curious, for example, why the military would censor every and any image of a wounded US soldier, the media colluding with the blackout, while at the same time, after a supposed terrorist attack on an American marathon race, domestic media would be scrambling to outdo each another to disseminate the most bloody images of mangle limbs? And then, would there be any reason why the images of the public massacre of pro-Morsi demonstrators by the Egyptian police a couple weeks back would earn only cursory display while the media seems so eager, these Syrian photos in hand, to open an artery?” -All that Syrian Decapitation in the Media Lately: The New Abnormal? (GRAPHIC) / BagNewsNotes

Yesterday Time’s LightBox blog posted photos of the execution by decapitation of an unknown man by unknown assailants in Syria, photographed by an unknown photographer. It’s a graphic gallery, but they are not the only recent troubling images of executions in Syria. Recent coverage in Paris Match and the New York Times have focused on brutal executions committed by both Syrian rebels and the Assad regime. BagNewsNotes offers a reading and interpretation of what these photos, and their recent publication, mean in relation to broader political conditions. The pictures and reporting linked here are important in our understanding of the current Syrian problem and how our leaders are acting. So too, BagNews’ analysis is worth a read.

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.”

Journalist James Foley remains missing after being kidnapped in Syria in Nov. 2012

James Foley, Aleppo, Syria - 11/12 (photo by Nicole Tung) - Foley was kidnapped in Syria while reporting and last seen Nov. 22, 2012

James Foley, Aleppo, Syria – 11/12 (photo by Nicole Tung) – Foley was kidnapped in Syria while reporting and last seen Nov. 22, 2012

“Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a US journalist on Thanksgiving Day [2012]. More than a month later, he remains missing. American James Foley, 39, was last seen on Nov. 22 in Idlib Province. Idlib has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent months between Syrian rebels and government forces.” -Global Post, US journalist missing in Syria

2012 was a bad year to be a journalist. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 70 journalists were killed as a result of their job, while Reporters Without Borders has the number at 89, and the International Press Institute reports a record year at 133 journalists killed on the job or as a consequence of their reporting. All of these organizations report that Syria was the most dangerous country for journalists, media workers, and citizen journalists last year. And last week we learned that American journalist James Foley, a writer and videographer, was kidnapped on Nov. 22, 2012, in Idlib Province, Syria.

His condition and whereabouts are still unknown 48 days (as of this writing) after his disappearance. Foley’s family decided to spread word of his kidnapping in January 2013 with a public appeal asking for his safe return. You can keep up to date with the case at FreeJamesFoley.org‘s latest news page.

Add your name to the appeal for James Foley’s safety and return or, if you know anything about his whereabouts, please send information to the family.

In the time since Foley’s kidnapping, many other journalists have been killed or faced violence or other repercussions as a result of their reporting. Keep up to date with the Committee to Protect Journalists’ news alerts.

Nicole Tung in Syria

Our friend Nicole Tung has been producing some incredibly strong and moving work from Syria in the last couple of months. It is very dangerous reporting and she is making important photographs and finding ways to get them out to the world, which we greatly admire. The picture below, which was featured in a TIME LightBox post, is the strongest image either Scott or I have seen all year. Tung recently spoke with Photojournalism Links about her time in Syria and her plans for returning. It is a must read. To Nicole and our other colleagues who are working there: stay safe and keep up the important work.

Men carry the body of Hatem Qureya, 15, after he was trapped under rubble following an airstrike in the neighborhood of Bustan al Qasr in Aleppo, Syria, on Monday, August 6, 2012 which claimed at least eight lives including five children from the same family. © Nicole Tung.

See more of Tung’s work at:
Photojournalism Links: “Interview: Nicole Tung on covering the battle for Aleppo”.
Time Lightbox: “A Syrian Tragedy: One Family’s Horror”.
Time Lightbox: “Suffering and Resilience: The Hospitals of Aleppo”

Worth a Look: Gabriela Bulisova’s “Option of Last Resort”

A little while ago Gabriela Bulisova sent us a link to her project “Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States”. It is a challenging look at the issue of Iraqi refugees who are struggling to settle in the United States. Many of them assisted the Americans during the conflict, as translators or contractors, which put them in profound danger of reprisals.

The radio show This American Life had an episode earlier this year called “Will They Know Me Back Home?” (and one last year too, called Iraq After Us, which has a slightly more convoluted example) which touched on the issue of Iraqi colleagues who are attempting to immigrate to the US, surprising me that such an important and looming story – how do we treat the people who helped us – had eluded my attention for so long. Bulisova’s project brings us that much further into understanding the stories of Iraqis who are making the difficult transition from war to a new life in the United States, which had created such a troubled relationship in the first place. Her strong pictures are supplemented by startling quotes about life in Iraq and their treatment as refugees and their hopes for the future. I fear that issues like this, which are much quieter and are the more subtle repercussions of war, remain out of sight for many of us.

OPTION OF LAST RESORT: Iraqi Refugees in the United States. from gabriela bulisova on Vimeo.

from Bulisova’s introduction to the project:
Some of the most recent Iraqi refugees in America had signed up to serve as translators working for the U.S. military or as experts with other U.S. government agencies, NGOs, or American companies in Iraq. They saved lives; they built cultural and linguistic bridges; they sacrificed their own safety and the safety of their families to help participate in what they thought would be the creation of a better Iraq. They quickly became one of the most hunted groups in the country. They bore a lethal stigma as “collaborators” or “traitors” that transcended sect or tribe, and they were targeted in assassination campaigns that drove many of them either into hiding or out of the country.

For people who fear for their life and seek refugee status in America, the U.S. government offers resettlement as the “option of last resort” for the most vulnerable refugees. In this project, I photographed and interviewed Iraqi refugees who have been resettled to the United States and are living in Washington, D.C. or other American cities.

Dvafoto: How did you come to work on this project?
I worked with Iraqi refugees in Syria in 2007 and 2008 (the project can be seen on my website), and upon returning back to DC and while doing advocacy work with the photographs (the great displacement of Iraqis was an under reported story then and I tried to raise awareness), I learned about Iraqis in the US, specifically in the DC-area, who were affiliated with the US Army, government agencies, etc. and faced certain death if they did not flee. I connected with The List Project (an advocacy NGO that helps via legal means to speed up the extremely lengthy and difficult immigration process – even though those Iraqis are being targeted with assassination attempts and thus should be the number one priority for political asylum). And, then, slowly, very slowly, I was able to build trust and convince my subjects that I can photograph them without ever revealing their faces and their identities (few of them did not mind showing their faces – their entire families were either here or killed so they had nothing else to fear).

Where have you been able to show these pictures, and where else do you plan to?
It’s currently a part of the OSI’s Moving Walls 18 exhibit, parts of the project have been exhibited at different galleries (physical and on-line, including Burn magazine). I would love to continue working on the project – especially, I think, it’s timely right now to go to Iraq as the US is withdrawing its troops and there is no protection for the thousands of people who are-and-were affiliated with the US. The fear is that they will become the number one target again. That said, I would love to keep showing this work and, potentially, would also love to continue working on it.