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August 8th, 2012

At Least 70 Journalists Killed on the Job in 2012

At least 70 journalists and media workers were killed while covering the news  between January and June of this year; 15 of them died in Syria alone, according to a report released today by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and conducted by the Cardiff School of Journalism. The number may be higher, as INSI reports that an additional 30 media workers were killed, but the organization was unable to confirm that their deaths were related to their work. By comparison, 56 journalists died on the job in the first seven months of last year, and a total of 124 died in the whole of 2011.

INSI, a coalition of new organizations, journalist support groups and individuals, is a non-profit dedicated to promoting the safety and security of journalists around the world.

INSI reports on all issues of safety for journalists, and not only the targeting of journalists by enemies of a free press. However, INSI Director Rodney Pinder says of today’s report, “Journalists are more than ever in the cross-hairs of the enemies of freedom.” Most of the journalists killed this year were shot or bombed. “Despite some encouraging international political moves to halt the murder, the gun and the bomb remain the favored method of censorship in far too many countries.”

INSI also notes that of the more than 1,000 journalists and media workers killed on the job in the past decade, “The great majority were born and raised in the land where they were killed. Foreign correspondents are the high profile casualties, but most victims are local.”

The full report is available on the INSI web site, www.newssafety.org.

(Via the Guardian and Committee to Protect Journalists.)

Related articles:

Your Cellphone is Not Your Friend and Other Security Tips for Conflict Zones

Columbia J-School to Offer Safety Course for Journalists

Were Journalists in Homs Targeted for Bombing?

July 16th, 2012

Photojournalist Describes Wreckage in Tremseh, Syria

© AFP/photos by D. Leal Olivas

Spanish photographer Daniel Leal Olivas, who reached the Syrian village of Tremseh on Friday July 13, reports that he saw what looked to be the effects of shells fired by tanks in the village. That would contradict the Syrian government’s claims that the Syrian Army did not use heavy weapons, a violation of a UN agreement. Olivas, speaking to PDN by Skype from the Istanbul airport on July 16, also said mourning villagers begged him and his companion not to leave them.  How many people were killed in Tremseh, what kinds of weapons were used and whether the Syrian government was pursuing opposition fighters or targeting civilians remains uncertain, according to reports from the BBC, The New York Times and other news organizations, as the Syrian government and anti-government activists have made claims and counter claims about what happened.

Olivas, a news photographer, has made two month-long trips to Syria this year; his first, in April, was his first time photographing in a war zone. In the past two days, he has given interviews to Al Jazeera and to National Public Radio about what he saw in Tremseh on Friday night. “I’m not a military guy,” he told PDN, then added that “being in Syria for two months, you know what weapons they used.” In Tremseh he took photos, many of which he transmitted to Agence France Press, showing burned out homes, holes blasted through walls, and boys holding up shells that Olivas says would have been fired by a tank – presumably on Thursday. He also photographed bloody hand prints on walls. He told Al Jazeera (quoted in The Guardian’s Middle East blog), “All the tank tracks were in the ground, very fresh. Everyone was in the town very nervous, trying to show us what happened in the town.” Olivas told PDN, “Those people who came running to us, screaming what they did in Tremseh, they were either great actors or they were really freaked out. What I saw in their eyes, I felt that they weren’t lying,”

Olivas says, “I went to Syria to help Syria.” He found places to stay and got help moving around the country from locals, in particular from one person he describes as “my good friend and amazing activist.”  Olivas was in Kafranbel on Thursday when he and the friend saw a report on Al Jazeera Arabic that 200 people had been killed in Tremseh. Olivas was eager to go; his friend said, “Only God can reach there.” On Friday, however, his friend made calls and researched a route. They passed several checkpoints, Olivas says, and “ finally got there with the last minutes of light,” around 7:30pm. UN observers “arrive[d] pretty much at the same time.”

He says that the observers left after less than 20 minutes. “It was getting dark, it was so dangerous to be in that area.”  He left soon after, and says he saw no other journalists.

Olivas says before he left Syria he transmitted images to the agency AFP using a pseudonym for protection. The credits on the AFP images were changed once he was safely in Turkey. Olivas’s images and captions from Tremseh can be found on the AFP Image Forum page.

July 12th, 2012

Civil Rights Group Demands End to Use of Same-Sex Couple Photo in Anti-Gay Ad

© Kristina Hill

When wedding photographer Kristina Hill learned that her engagement photo of a same-sex couple had been used without her permission in a political flyer attacking same-sex marriage, she told PDN she wasn’t sure she had the resources to pursue a long legal battle. Now Hill and her clients have an ally. Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the civil rights organization, yesterday sent a cease and desist order to Public Advocate of the United States, a right-wing political organization, demanding they confirm they are no longer using the image. In the order,  SPLC also says they are considering other possible legal action for infringing Hill’s copyright.

Hill’s photo shows Tom Privitere and Brian Edwards, a New Jersey couple, kissing. Public Advocate of the United States used the photo without the permission of Hill or her clients in a flyer attacking Republican Colorado State Senator Jean White, who had supported civil unions for same-sex couples. The photo, digitally altered to strip out the New York City skyline, appears under the words “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘family values?’”

Public Advocate had defended its unauthorized use of the image on the grounds that others “make fair use of our materials.”

SPLC has previously labeled Public Advocate “a hate group,” and noted in a statement released yesterday that it has “a history of attacking the LGBT community.” The statement quotes Christine Sun, deputy legal director at the SPLC, saying that the alteration and unauthorized use of Hill’s photo was “morally reprehensible.” Sun says, “This latest attack is the most vicious yet and should serve as a warning that your personal photos are not safe from anyone willing to stoop to the vilest level of harassment.”

In the SPLC statement, Hill says she took the engagement photo to document her clients’ love. “When I saw how my image was used, I was sad for Brian and Tom. I was angry that someone would take my work, distort it and use it to reflect the opposite of what it was meant to express.”

Related Article
Wedding Photographer Might Sue for Copyright Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad

July 9th, 2012

How Sean Hemmerle Photographed Drones

© The New York Times Magazine/photo: Sean Hemmerle

To accompany an article in the latest issue of The New York Times Magazine about how the Air Force trains its pilots to control unmanned drones used for deadly strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, the magazine assigned architecture and portrait photographer Sean Hemmerle to photograph the aircraft at Holloman Air Force Base, a training facility in New Mexico. His images, shot with a Mamiya 7, make the drones look stark and strange—“They’re blind moles in the sky,” says Hemmerle—and also technologically astonishing. That, says Hemmerle, was his intent. “When I got there I thought: Wow, these are strangely beautiful,” he says. “They’re curious to look at. I was hoping the pictures would sort of lull you in with beauty, and then hopefully an hour later you’ll say:  ‘What did I just see?’”

Stacey Baker, the photo editor at The New York Times Magazine who produced the shoot, says she gave Hemmerle a wish list of shots to take. Despite—or perhaps because of—the increasing criticism of the CIA’s use of remotely piloted drones to carry out assassinations in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, Hemmerle was allowed to shoot everything on Baker’s list. “They basically threw open the doors to us,” explains Hemmerle, who was accompanied throughout the two-day shoot by First Lt. Logan Clark of the public affairs office. “They only asked that we not show the last names of the pilots.”

He photographed both types of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), the Predator  and the Reaper, take offs and landings, a flight simulator, and rows of ground control stations (GCS): the windowless, antenna-studded containers from which pilots control the aircraft while watching video monitors. At Holloman, which is located near the White Sands Missile Range south of Albuquerque, trainees learn to hone in on targets by tracking cars driving along local highways.

Captain Emily Chilson, chief of public affairs at the base, tells PDN that Holloman is a training facility “so there’s nothing classified here.” The facility had hosted a “media day” for photographers and reporters in February; another media event is scheduled for later this month, Chilson says. Wanting something different for The Magazine, Baker secured permission to send a photographer when other press weren’t around. She contacted Hemmerle on May 11, and on May 15 he and Ari Burling, a photographer friend who acted as his assistant, flew from New York to New Mexico.

© The New York Times/photo by Sean Hemmerle

Hemmerle spent two 16-hour days, shooting from dawn to dusk, hoping to get the best light possible. Shooting in a World War II-era hanger, “They were long exposures, of 15 or 30 seconds, to make dawn look like day.” Baker had asked him to shoot film, and he backed up everything he shot on the Mamiya RZ by shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II. Once his film was processed, he looked through about 60 contact sheets and about 100 digital frames before sending a selection of his 20 favorites to Baker. Four images appeared in yesterday’s print edition; nine images appear online.

Hemmerle, who has shot in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, has photographed other centers of power.  Kathy Ryan, The Magazine’s director of photography, had recently seen Hemmerle’s photo of a meeting at US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, which he shot for the MIT Technology Review. Ryan and her husband, editor and curator Scott Thode, are co-curating an upcoming exhibition of work by School of Visual Arts alumni, and had visited Hemmerle’s studio two weeks before he got the call from Baker.

Hemmerle served in the US Army from 1984 to 1988, and believes mentioning this experience on his bio has helped him when he’s photographed the military. “The commanders are always respectful.” Of the Air Force personnel he met at Holloman, he says, “Everyone’s so accommodating, so professional, and smart, too.”

He didn’t know other photographers had visited at Holloman, and didn’t know why he was given so much access.  “I was thinking that if they’ll let me see that and they’ll let The New York Times publish it, it’s the cherry picked tip of the iceberg. When I see that we can photograph that, I’m like,  ‘What else you really got going on?’” He adds, “There’s a touch of Dr. Strangelove there,” referring to the Cold War movie about military hardware run amok, “but the experience of actually photographing them was fantastic.”

June 4th, 2012

BBC Fooled by Syrian Rebel Propaganda Photo on Twitter

The BBC recently suffered a predictable consequence of relying on citizen journalism: It published a photograph circulated on Twitter by a Syrian anti-government activist that purportedly shows dead civilians after a government massacre last month in Houla, Syria. The image turns out to have been misappropriated and mislabeled for the purposes of propaganda.

The photo was actually a 2003 photograph from Iraq by Getty images contract photographer Marco di Lauro, John Harrington reported May 27 on his Photo Business News & Forum blog.  The image shows dozens of bodies dug up from a mass grave. They were victims of a brutal crackdown by former dictator Saddam Hussein against a Shi’ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

A Syrian activist reportedly circulated the image on Twitter as evidence of a Syrian crackdown against its citizens, in order to stoke the international outrage against Al Assad’s government. The BBC saw it,  “obtained some information pointing to its veracity,” and published the image with a disclaimer saying it could not be independently verified, according to the mea culpa that BBC published on May 29.

“It was a mistake,” the BBC said, “and we apologise for it.” The image was displayed for approximately 90 minutes before it was taken down, the BBC says.

Harrington argues that the mistake was a predictable consequence of the rush by the BBC and other news organizations to embrace citizen journalism, while mouthing all the right words about upholding standards for accuracy, fairness and objectivity.

One would think that a few glaring errors like this might make reputable news organizations realize that there are no shortcuts to gathering and vetting news–and also make them twice shy about crowd-sourcing news in order to save money.

But for now the BBC seems undeterred. “Fortunately, such mistakes are very rare,” the BBC assures its readers. “BBC News has a strong track record of using content from non-traditional sources, and of stopping numerous examples of incorrect material making it to air or online – but it does underline the need to handle such material with great care.”

May 23rd, 2012

Police Brutality? Pictures Tell a More Complicated Story

 

©Chicago Tribune/Brian Cassella

The Chicago Tribune has posted a dramatic series of photographs showing a clash between police and protesters outside the NATO summit meeting in Chicago on May 20. The images were shot by Tribune photographer Brian Cassella, who explains on his blog how he got the photos. The last image of the series shows a police officer cocking his fist to punch a protester. By itself, it’s easily read as (another) act of police brutality against citizens exercising their constitutional rights. But context is everything, as the rest of Cassella’s images illustrate: The police officer is throwing the punch to stop a protester from swinging a heavy stick (for the second time) at the head of another police officer who had lost his helmet. That helmet-less officer had already been struck once in the head by another protester swinging a lighter stick, which Cassella captured as it broke over the officer’s head. It’s a complicated story about two wrongs that don’t make a right, and Cassella tells it with clarity in nine frames. To see the series, visit the Chicago Tribune’s web site. (Cassella also talks about the photographs in this Chicago Tribune video.)

May 9th, 2012

Jeff Wall Photograph Fetches Artist Record $3.6 Million at Auction

"Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986," © Jeff Wall.

A 1992 photograph by Jeff Wall sold for $3,666,500 yesterday evening during a Post-War and Contemporary art auction at Christie’s in New York City. The previous record sale for a work by Jeff Wall was $1.1 million.

The work “Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986″ depicts a grisly scene in which Soviet Red Army soldiers killed by the Afghan mujahideen have come back to life and are conversing with one another.

The photograph, framed in a light box, was the first in an edition of two, with one artist’s print. The photograph has been in the collection of David and Geraldine Pincus, who acquired it from Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. The Pincus’s substantial collection formed a major part of the sale, which set a record for a Post-War and Contemporary art sale at $388.5 million, according to Christie’s.

The high lot in the sale was Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow,” which sold for $86.9 million, another record for a work from the Post-War period.

Three other photographs were included in the sale. A Richard Prince work that appropriated a Marlboro advertisement, “Untitled (Cowboys),” sold for $602,500. Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled #122″ sold for $206,500. And Nan Goldin’s “Ballad Triptych” sold for $218,500.

Related: Eggleston’s First-Ever Large Pigment Prints Earn 5.9 Million at Auction

May 4th, 2012

Three News Photographers Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico

Three photographers who had covered organized crime and drug violence in the Mexican state of Veracruz were found dead yesterday, AP reports. The bodies of  Guillermo Luna Varela, Gabriel Huge and Esteban Rodriguez were recovered from a wastewater canal near the port city of Veracruz, about 250 miles east of Mexico City. Their bodies had been dismembered and stuffed into black plastic bags. The Veracruz Attorney General’s office also reported that their bodies showed signs of torture.

Their deaths, discovered on World Press Freedom Day, bring to seven the number of journalists killed in Veracruz in the past year and a half. “Veracruz has seen a wave of lethal anti-press violence that is sowing widespread fear and self-censorship,” Carlos Lauria of Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.  Lauria called on Mexico’s government “to end the deadly cycle of impunity in crimes against the press.”

Luna was a photographer on the crime beat for the web site veracruznews.com.mx who was last seen on Wednesday May 2. He was the nephew of Huge, a journalist who had been working for the local newspaper Notiver until he fled Veracruz after two of the newspaper’s reporters were murdered last year. According to a fellow journalist who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity, Huge had recently returned to the state. Esteban Rodriguez had been a photographer with the newspaper AZ until he too fled; according to some news reports, he had recently been working as a welder. Also found on the scene was the body of Luna’s girlfriend, Irasema Becerra.

April 11th, 2012

At Bosnia Reunion, Journalists See Unfinished Work

Over 400 Bosnian and foreign journalists who covered the Bosnian war gathered in Sarajevo last week for the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict. But the reunion, organized by former Le Monde correspondent and editor Remy Ourdan and TV reporter Willem Lust,  with support from AFP, the Association of Journalists of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other organizations, generated as much discussion about the problems in today’s Bosnia as it did about the past, according to photographer Gary Knight, who traveled to the event with his wife, filmmaker Fiona Turner. “It wasn’t very celebratory,” says Knight. “For so many of us, there was an affirmation that we need to get back to work in that country.”

In Sarajevo, Knight, Ourdan and photographer Jon Jones (now director of photography for London’s Sunday Times Magazine)  presented the layout of the book they are self-publishing: Bosnia 1992 to 1995, featuring images donated by 45 photographers and essays by journalists who covered the conflict, edited by Jones. When the book is published in July, they will donate about 250 copies to Bosnian public libraries; they will also sell copies and send proceeds to charities in Bosnia (selected with help from Bosnian colleagues). Though Knight had anticipated that revisiting Bosnia and reconnecting with his old colleagues would be “emotional,” he says, “I didn’t anticipate to what degree and why.” He explains, “It’s staggering what has not happened in 20 years.”

The official unemployment rate in Bosnia is 45 percent. Tens of thousands are still displaced 20 years after they were forced out of their homes. “You have people living on 100 euros a month,” he notes, “and there’s no justice.”

(more…)

March 9th, 2012

Behind the Photo of Invisible Children’s Founders Posing with Guns

© Glenna Gordon. Photo: Founders of Invisible Children pose with members of the Sudan People Liberation Army near the Sudan-Congo border, April 2008.

The Stop Kony2012 campaign video, which has now been viewed 55 million times on YouTube, has unleashed criticism about the video’s creators, followed by a backlash against the backlash.

The video, created by the charity Invisible Children, calls for intervention to bring Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, to justice. It is being criticized by Ugandans, NGOs working in Uganda and neigboring countries where the LRA operates, academics and the press.

Amidst the controversy there has been an outcry over a 2008 news photo showing Invisible Children’s founders posing with machine guns amidst members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which has battled the LRA. Photographer Glenna Gordon took the photo on assignment for AP in 2008, Ri-Kwangba, on the Sudan-Congo border, during peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA.
Gordon notes on her blog, www.scarlettlion.com that Vice magazine used the image without her permission –and without a caption – to illustrate its article “Should I Donate Money to Invisible Children?” That’s a valid question, she says, but just as the Kony 2012 video is being criticized for its lack of context, Gordon says her photo needs context, too. Without it, she says, the image “continues to perpetuate misinformation and to mythologize the film makers as bad asses, a practice I do not support.”  She says she tried to publish more information about what she calls the “questionable practices” of the founders but “no publication would bite.”

The Washington Post has just published an extensive interview with Gordon.  She is asked for her reaction to Invisible Children’s work and the video, and her thoughts on the photo:

Q. Invisible Children has received some criticism that their efforts and this photo seem “colonialist,” or hint at the “white man’s burden.” What do you say to that?
Gordon: I think all of those things are true. The photo plays into the myth that Invisible Children are very much actively trying to create. They even used the photo on their official response page. I don’t think they think there is a problem with the idea that they are colonial. This photo is the epitome of it, like, we are even going to hold your guns for you.

Invisible Children’s Jason Russell disagrees, the Post reports. Russell, who is shown in the photo along with colleagues Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole of Invisible Children, says they wanted to meet and film members of the SPLA to get their reaction to the peace talks.

“And because Bobby, Laren and I are friends and had been doing this for 5 years, we thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, ‘Haha – they have bazookas in their hands but they’re actually fighting for peace.’ The ironic thing about this photo is that I HATE guns. I always have. Back in 2008 I wanted this war to end, like we all did, peacefully, through peace talks. But Kony was not interested in that; he kept killing.”

The full interview with Gordon, and links to both criticism of the campaign and the reaction by Invisible Children, is on Washington Post.

Correction: an earlier version of this story misstated the location at which the image was taken. Apologies for this error.