August 12th, 2014

Photographer Reported Missing in Eastern Ukraine

© Rossiya Segodnya/images by Andrei Stenin

© Rossiya Segodnya/images by Andrei Stenin

Andrei Stenin, a photojournalist for the Russian state agency Rossiya Segodnya (also called RIA Novosti) has been missing since August 5, when he last reported to his agency while covering the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and military forces supporting the Ukraine government near the cities of Donetsk and Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine. According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other news organizations Rossiya Segodnya has reported, citing an anonymous source, that  Stenin is being held by the Ukrainian security service (SBU). SBU denies the allegation.

Rossiya Segodnya has launched a publicity campaign to lobby for his release. Dmitry Kiselev, the head of the agency, told the press that Stenin’s work has been “purely humanitarian in nature.”

Stenin’s photos are being displayed at the Rossiya Segodnya headquarters in Moscow, and the agency has posted a gallery of photos he’s taken in Ukraine since January.

The images Stenin last filed with his agency showed armed combat between separatist militia and Ukrainian government forces, and the capture of Ukrainian soldiers in Shakhtyorsk, outside Donetsk.

July 31st, 2014

Photographer Killed in Israeli Airstrike in Gaza (Update)

Rami Rayan, a photographer with the Palestine Network for Press and Media, was killed July 30 in an air strike by the Israeli Defense Forces in the Shuja’iya neighborhood of Gaza, Reporters Without Borders reports.

Rayan’s network manager told Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that the photographer was covering civilians shopping during what they thought was a four-hour “humanitarian window” ceasefire declared by Israel, but the Israeli military had noted it would not protect Shuja’iya and certain other areas of the city.

According to news reports, the air strike killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 200 others. At the time of the attack, Rayan was wearing a flak jacket and helmet marked “press” according to Reporters without Borders.

Rayan is the third * media worker killed since Israel began its military offensive in Gaza on July 8. Khalid Hamad, a cameraman for The Continue was killed July 20 during shelling in Shuja’iya. Hamdi Shihab, a driver for the Media 24 news agency, was killed July 9 when shells struck his vehicle which was marked “TV.”

(*Update: On July 31, Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Sameh al-Aryan , a camera operator for the al-Aqsa TV channel, run by Hamas, was killed in the same air strike in which Rayan died.)

“Israel is showing little evidence to back its claim that it tries to avoid civilian casualties, including those of journalists, in its assault on Gaza,” Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator for CPJ, said in a statement.

March 31st, 2014

Spanish Journalists Freed After 194 Days in Captivity in Syria

Spanish photojournalist Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova and reporter Javier Espinosa were freed by their Syrian captors Saturday night, 194 days after they were kidnapped while attempting to cover the Syrian civil war for the Spanish daily El Mundo, according to reports by NPPA and other news outlets.

Espinosa is a staff reporter for the Spanish daily El Mundo. Garcia-Vilanova, a freelancer, was on assignment with Espinosa when they were abducted by an Al-Qaeda affiliates at a checkpoint, shortly after crossing into Syria from Turkey last September 16.

Both men were reportedly in good health when they were released to Turkish authorities, and have since been re-united with their families in Spain.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria ranks as the world’s most dangerous place for journalists, who “are targeted, kidnapped by all sides in the conflict.”

Related:
Spanish Photographer and Reporter Abducted by Al-Qaeda Affiliate in Syria
Freelance Photographer Killed in Syria

July 17th, 2013

UN Security Council Holds Debate on Protections for Journalists

UN-tvFour journalists who have covered war zones will speak before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) today as part of an open debate on international protection for journalists covering war zones and post-conflict zones. Correspondent Richard Engel of NBC, journalist Mustafa Haji Abdinur of Radio Simba in Somalia and Agence France Presse, Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad of the Guardian, and Kathleen Carroll, Associated Press executive editor and vice chair of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, will be speaking today to members of the Council on the need to address attacks against journalists and also pursue prosecution for their attackers. You can watch the event live via webcast starting at 10am EST at http://webtv.un.org.

The US Mission to the UN organized the debate. Ambassador Rosemary A. DiCarlo, charge d’affaires to the U.S. mission to the UN,  said at a press conference that the meeting would be “an opportunity to hear directly from journalists about the acts of violence they face while operating in conflict areas.”

Whether any UN action can actually help journalists around the world is unclear. The last time the Council considered protections for journalists was in 2006, when it ratified Resolution 1738, which condemned intentional attacks on journalists. Since then, DiCarlo noted, “worldwide violence against journalists has worsened and there has been a particular increase in murders and imprisonment arising from conflict situations.”

A “UN Plan of Action” report released earlier this year noted a “staggering number of journalists and media workers killed while performing their professional duties.” It also noted that in 9 out of 10 cases, their killers were never prosecuted.

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Body of Newspaper Photographer Found in Saltillo, Mexico

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April 26th, 2013

Body of Newspaper Photographer Found in Saltillo, Mexico

Daniel Martinez Bazaldua, a photographer with the newspaper Vanguardia, was found dead yesterday in the northern Mexico City of Saltillo, the Associated Press reports. He had been missing since Tuesday, when he left the Vanguardia office in the afternoon.

The bodies of Martinez Bazaldua, age 22, and another man identified as Julian Zamora, 23, were found dismembered on a street. According to state prosecutors, the body parts were dumped along with a  hand-written message saying that the Zetas drug cartel was responsible for the killings. Saltillo is located in northern Coahuila, a state where Zetas is known to operate.

Coahuila state Attorney General Homero Ramos told reporters that investigators had indications both men “were participating in illegal activities.” Vanguardia, which hired Martinez a month ago to shoot for its society pages, rejected the attorney general’s claim, which was made before any criminal investigation into the murders.

In a statement issued yesterday, Carlos Lauría of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said, “It is irresponsible for authorities to reach conclusions before conducting a full investigation.” CPJ called on Mexican authorities “to fully investigate this crime, examine all possible motives, and bring those responsible to justice.”

CPJ reports that according to a Vanguardia editor who asked to remain anonymous, “Photographers covering the society section in Mexico have been targeted by organized crime groups in the past for inadvertently capturing images of cartel members, according to CPJ research.”

In May, three news photographers who covered organized crime and drug violence in Veracruz were found dead and dismembered.
CPJ reports that more than 50 journalists have been killed or disappeared in the last six years

Related Article
Three News Photographers Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico

February 21st, 2013

Is It More Dangerous than Ever to Be a Female War Reporter?

In an interview with the Atlantic, author and former Reuters correspondent Anne Sebba makes several points about women war reporters that current female conflict journalists find insulting.

Sebba, who is the author of a history of women reporters called Battling for News, told the Atlantic’s Emily Chertoff: “A lot of these conflicts are now in Muslim countries, who see Western women wearing provocative—that’s their word, not mine—provocative clothes, and therefore, they feel, the West has to be taught a lesson, that they’re fair targets, fair game.”

Sebba points out that more women are graduating from media studies programs and argues that editors “are prepared to exploit” young women because “you see a gorgeous woman on your screens in a flak jacket, and it’s almost like entertainment.”

In particular Sebba singles out young freelancers who don’t have the training and backing of a major news organization. “These young kids, who are barely out of media college, try and be freelance journalists, and so they often go off on their own and get a story. Those are the danger areas,” Sebba says.

In a response to the article posted on her Facebook page, Scout Tufankjian, a photojournalist who has worked in Egypt and Gaza, among other conflict zones, wrote that she “found lot of the assumptions within [the interview] to be pretty insulting. Especially the assumption that ignorance and inexperience is a gender issue, such as [quoting Sebba] ‘More women than men graduate in media studies. They don’t know how to find a fixer; they don’t know about weaponry; they don’t know where is safe, where is not safe—they just want to prove themselves.’”

Photojournalist Nicole Tung, who has worked in Syria, Libya and Egypt, agrees with Tufankjian. “It seems like Anne Sebba hasn’t been out in a conflict zone for some time now,” Tung told PDN via email. “I feel incredibly insulted, as do a number of other female journalists who’ve voiced their concerns over social media networks…. I have come across both men and women who started out as inexperienced as I was. In Syria in particular, there are many rookies heading in without any conflict experience and they are predominantly (I would say 80 percent) males going in, emailing me with questions about how to do this or that, how to find the right people, etc.”

“I think she also fails to mention that women weren’t the only gender targeted in attacks in [Egypt's] Tahrir Square,” Tung points out. “Men were, too, and continue to be targets until today. Few people come out and talk about that. Why? It’s not only because both women and men are risking losing an assignment, but because sometimes we personally feel we can overlook some incidents and keep on moving, working. It is about the story we’re covering and not about us. That’s the mentality a lot of us go in with, and turning the focus on us is something we try to avoid until it becomes something we deem necessary. I think social media is a big part of why we hear more about attacks on the press and in particular, women, these days.”

Sebba also argues that having children impacts female journalists more than male journalists. “I think a woman has carried a baby for nine months, and she worries more about that,” Sebba tells the Atlantic.

After war photographer Lynsey Addario was captured along with three male journalists, Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks, while on assignment for the New York Times in Libya in 2011, she said she felt that being groped by her captors was no worse than being hit in the head like her male counterparts were. (The Libyan driver for the Times journalists was killed by the captors.)

In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, senior editor Lauren Wolfe asked Addario what she thought when one of her colleagues, Tyler Hicks, said during a panel discussion that it was a worse experience for Addario.

“Well, that’s his perception,” Addario responded. “Who can qualify what’s worse? Who has the right to say what’s worse? For me, when I was getting groped, I was listening to them—and I could only listen because I was blindfolded—I was listening to them get smashed on the head and I can hear them scream, like, grunting, and to me that was so painful…. It was horrible for all of us. I don’t understand why this is so much worse for me? Is it because I’m a woman? I don’t know who has the answer to that question.”

“I definitely think that more training needs to take into account female-specific issues,” Tufankjian wrote in her Facebook post, “but at the end of the day, of the 70 journalists killed last year, 3 were women and 67 were men. Has anyone heard any discussion about using these numbers to keep men out of dangerous situations? Maybe it’s just more dangerous than ever to be a war reporter.”

July 2nd, 2012

Your Cellphone Is Not Your Friend, and Other Security Tips For Conflict Zones

The surveillance of journalists covering Syria has heightened concern about the risks journalists face in relying on mobile communications and cellphones. In February, journalists Remi Ochlick and Marie Colvin were killed when shells struck the press center that they and other journalists were using to transmit their stories; the Syrian army may have used satellite signals from the center to target it.

More recently the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that  Syrian security agents in October arrested a British journalist, seizing his laptop, cellphone, camera and video he had shot while interviewing anti-government Syrian activists; several of these dissidents have been arrested, one has fled the country and another has disappeared.

In the wake of these incidents, as well as attacks on journalists and their sources elsewhere, several journalism organizations have been hammering on the need for journalists to take precautions when using cellphones and laptops in certain areas, to protect the contact information they store electronically, and to make sure their communications are secure.

Several guides to protecting and encrypting your data are available online for free:

- The 2012 edition of CPJ’s Journalist Security Guide from CPJ has added chapters on how to protect your communications from surveillance and secure your data. You can download the guide here.

- SaferMobile.org, a non-profit helping journalists, has a new Mobile Security Survival Guide. It covers topics such as how to disable the GPS in your phone, set up secure communications and protect sensitive information. It also has links to best practices for using satellite phones.

- The web site Media Helping Media recently posted “Tips for Staying Safe on Mobile,” which includes information on staying anonymous while using social media, uploading photos and stories safely, and browsing the internet securely.

- If you want a condensed summary of these and other security tips,  Lauren Wolfe, a former editor at CPJ and director of Women Under Siege, Tweeted tips from two seminars on journalism security held on World Press Freedom Day. You can find a Storify of the information she gleaned here.

Here are a few precautions suggested in all these guides:
-Take the battery out of your phone (don’t simply turn it off) to make sure it’s not transmitting its location to the cellphone network. (Don’t take an iPhone to meet sources who may be targeted.)

-If you connect to social media or other major web sites from the field, install HTTPS Everywhere browser extension, which makes your web browsing more secure. Make sure your smartphone supports sites with the https:// prefix.

-Download contacts, captions and story notes to a secure computer when possible, then wipe your phone, including the log of calls and SMS messages.

-Text messaging is one of the least secure ways to communication. Encryption software is available to encode your messages. But note: CPJ’s Security Guide and other resources point out that using encryption may call attention to your communications.

Paranoid? Sure. But it’s not only your own safety you have to be concerned about.

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June 1st, 2012

Fleeing Violence against Journalists, Veracruz Photographer Seeks Asylum in US

A photojournalist from Veracruz, Mexico, is seeking political asylum in the US following a wave of killings of journalists who have covered drug trafficking in the violence-ridden Mexican state. The El Paso Times reports that Miguel Angel Lopez Solana, a photographer for La Jornada, a daily newspaper in Mexico, has decided to seek political asylum for himself and his wife almost a year after members of his family –who were also fellow journalists–were murdered.

The photographer’s father, Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, a columnist at the Veracruz paper Notiver, his brother, Misael Lopez Solana, a photographer with Notiver, and his mother were shot and killed in their home on June 20, 2011.

Last month, three news photographers who covered organized crime in Veracruz were found murdered; their dismembered bodies showed signs of torture, according to the Veracruz police.

Miguel Lopez Solana himself was kidnapped and threatened at gunpoint in 2009 over his coverage of the police beat.

Fearing for his life, he recently contacted Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders, and received a visa to travel to the US. He will file a request for political asylum later this month in Houston, according to his lawyer, Carlos Spector, who has represented other Mexican journalists fleeing anti-press violence in Mexico.

At a forum on press safety held May 23 in Austin, Texas, Lopez Solana told the audience, “They aren’t just killing us journalists, they are drawing and quartering us…We are living in terror.” The Texas Observer reports that Lopez Solana said his colleagues back in Veracruz feel isolated and afraid. “They are traumatized and living in fear. It’s way beyond any fiction you could ever imagine.”

Committee to Protect Journalists reports that since 2006, 45 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico.

(Thanks to Emphas.is for alerting us to Lopez Solana’s story.)

Related story
Three News Photographers Found Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico

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.

August 25th, 2011

Photojournalists Assaulted in Kashmir by Indian Forces

Zuma Press photographer Narcisco Contreras of Mexico and freelance photographer Showkat Shafi of India were beaten by police and government forces, then arrested while covering a violent street protest in Srinigar, Kashmir on August 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports.

Shafi, who has shot for Al Jazeera online and Reuters, reported that he and Contreras were covering a clash between youth protesting Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir when police and soldiers charged the crowd, beating protesters and the photographers.  “We were covering the protests, standing on the side of the demonstrators, when the police charged the protesters … we were verbally abused and beaten with bamboo sticks and batons,” he told Al Jazeera.

Contreras said he tried to take shelter in a tailor’s shop. “The soldiers descended there and started beating everyone, including me.”

The photographers were then taken to a police station, along with protesters; according to the photographers and eyewitnesses, they were held for hours. The two have reported that they were beaten while in police custody. Contreras told Al Jazeera, “I repeatedly told them I’m a foreign journalist, but they continued beating me as if I was some criminal,” he said.  A police officer told Al Jazeera that the two photographers were released after they showed their press credentials, and denied that they were beaten.

Responding to reports that the photographers had been beaten, Farooq Khan, president of the Kashmir Press Photographers Association, told Al Jazeera, “Let’s remember that incidents like these have become a routine here.”