Although this image of a Greek police officer punching a news photographer at an Athens street protest was shot last fall, it didn’t come to our attention until yesterday. But the passage of several months makes it no less dramatic or shocking. And it remains timely for what it represents: the tensions between police and media all over the world, including the US, where Occupy protests show signs of stirring once again. In this image, shot by Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis, a police officer punches veteran photojournalist Tatiana Bolari, co-owner of the Greek photo agency Eurokinisi. The incident occurred at an anti-austerity protest on October 5 when police moved against a group of photographers and journalists covering the event, Behrakis told PDN.
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Reuters has posted photographer Zohra Bensemra’s nail-biting account of her recent five-day trip into Syria. With the help of Syrian activists, she slipped across the Turkish border to document the unrest near Idlib, which has come under attack by government forces in recent days.
“In Libya, miles divided the warring parties. In Syria, enemies are yards apart. The war is being fought from house to house,” Bensemra writes. Recounting civilian deaths in the aftermath of indiscriminate bombing by the military, she says, “From the moment we had crossed the border from Turkey, the terror was palpable in the faces of our guides, of all the villagers.”
Bensemra describes the terror of coming under attack when her guide panicked, and of being hunted by soldiers going house to house after they realized journalists were in the area. Her first-person account is accompanied by photographs of the destruction and death.
“Conditions for our work had been so tough in Syria, that it had been hard to capture many of the striking, bold images that make for the most arresting photography,” she wrote after returning safely to Turkey.
Bensemra’s account coincided with a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists about the dangerous conditions in Syria. Eight journalists have died there since November. CPJ says there is “substantial evidence” that government forces deliberately targeted two local journalists who were killed. And CPJ says that “circumstantial evidence and witness statements point to the possibility that government forces may have taken deliberate, hostile action against the press that led to the deaths of three international journalists, Gilles Jacquier, Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik.”
Meanwhile, two Turkish journalists who were missing in Syria for nearly a week have been captured and handed over to the Syrian secret police, according to news accounts today.
News stories of the deaths in Syria of American reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik totaled in the thousands last week. That was followed by hundreds of stories yesterday about the rescue of British photographer Paul Conroy, who was injured in the same attack in Homs, Syria that killed Ochlik and Colvin.
Lost in much of the coverage about Conroy’s rescue was the fact that 35 activists helped Conroy reach safety in Lebanon, and 13 of them died during the rescue mission. AP reported those deaths, which occurred when government troops attacked the activists.
Meanwhile, the death last Friday of Anas al-Tarsha, a young Syrian videographer and the fourth journalist to die in Homs within a week, was virtually unreported by the news media, except in Spain. The Committee to Protect Journalists, NPPA, Lightstalkers, and a few others also mentioned his death. The death of the fourth journalist, Syrian video blogger Rami al-Sayed, also received much less coverage last week than the deaths of Ochlik and Colvin.
In other words, Western journalists get into trouble, and it’s big news. Local journalists and fixers and others who get injured or killed along side them are too often relegated to the footnotes.
Of course, hundreds of Syrians have died and thousands more have been injured in Homs, where government troops have been shelling rebels and unarmed civilians alike for three weeks in order to keep the unpopular Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in power.
But a disproportionate amount of Western media attention and outrage seems reserved for its own journalists, and it raises (again) the uncomfortable questions about the risks that Western journalists impose not only on themselves, but the locals who aid them. (The issue arose last spring, when a driver for four New York Times journalists went missing after they were detained at a checkpoint in Libya. It wasn’t until November that The New York Times quietly acknowledged the driver’s death.)
This isn’t to say that the deaths of Colvin, Ochlik or any other journalists are anything but a tragedy, regardless of their nationality. Nor is it to suggest selfishness or callousness on the part of individual journalists for whom drivers, fixers, or anyone else risks life and limb. (Conroy’s wife has told The Western Morning News that the photographer “is obviously very concerned for all the people who lost their lives in helping them out. It’s a real burden on him to know that so many people died.”)
What makes the issue so complicated is that journalists endanger themselves and others for good, defensible reasons. By bearing witness to the savagery committed by al-Assad, journalists are trying to help the Syrian people. And they are making a difference. The images and reports have turned the international community (with the glaring exceptions of China and Russia) against al-Assad, and put pressure on him to allow the Red Cross and Red Crescent in to help evacuate the dead and wounded.
That’s why al-Assad is targeting journalists with intent to kill them, while Syrian citizens are risking their lives to help those same journalists. The Syrians who died in the rescue of Paul Conroy undertook the mission voluntarily. But their deaths shouldn’t be his burden to bear alone, because they might have died for any journalist in Conroy’s predicament. To recognize and honor them for their sacrifice is to elevate and honor not only them, but all who put themselves at risk anywhere in the world to make the work of journalists possible.
British photographer Paul Conroy, who was injured last week in an attack on a makeshift media center in Homs, Syria that killed two other journalists, has been smuggled to safety in Lebanon, the Associated Press reports.
Syrian activists smuggled Conroy out last night. According to The Guardian, the activists came under attack while they were moving Conroy to safety and several of them died.
The British Sunday Times, for which Conroy works as a staff photographer, confirmed that he is “safe and in Lebanon,” The Guardian reported.
Kate Conroy, the photographer’s wife, said in a statement that “we are delighted and overjoyed at the news” that the he is out of Syria.
Conroy suffered leg injuries in the attack last week that killed French photographer Remi Ochlik and American reporter Marie Colvin. Another French journalist, Edith Bouvier, was also injured in the attack. She remains in hiding in Homs, according to press reports.
Like other foreign journalists, those killed and injured last week had entered Syria illegally to report on the popular uprising against the government, which is refusing legal entry to foreign journalists.
HitRECord, an online artist collaborative and production company started by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has created the animated short “They Can’t Turn the Lights Off Now” based on the ACLU of Florida’s pamphlet “Photographers: Know Your Rights.” The setting for the video is a demonstration on Wall Street, where a young girl’s camera is confiscated by a police officer. To her rescue comes Benjamin Franklin (with angel wings), who explains what rights she has to take photographs under the first amendment. The video appears to be making a statement about the recent actions by police to limit journalists and others from documenting Occupy Wall Street protests. Watch the video below and go to ACLU.org to learn more about photographer rights.
Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States 47th on their 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index, down 27 places from the previous year, tied with Argentina and Romania.
“In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 [journalists] were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation,” Reporters Without Borders wrote in their report. The US “owed its fall” to arrests and harassment related to coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the non-profit reporters’ rights group said.
The drop saw the US ranked just above Latvia, and Trinidad and Tobago, which fell 20 places due to a scandal involving the government spying on journalists.
In a statement released along with the index today, Reporters Without Borders noted that “Many media [around the world] paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements…. Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011.”
In North African and Middle East, the Arab uprisings greatly affected the rankings of several nations. In Tunisia and Libya rose in the index as censorious regimes were deposed. Egypt, however, fell 39 places in the index due in part to “The hounding of foreign journalists for three days at the start of February, the interrogations, arrests and convictions of journalists and bloggers by military courts, and the searches without warrants,” the report said.
Syria and Yemen were already lowly ranked, so their crackdowns on demonstrations and journalists only caused them to sink a bit lower. Iran fell in the rankings to 175. China, “which has more journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents in prison than any other country,” the report notes, also ranked near the bottom of the index at 174.
Eritrea was the worst nation in the ranking for a fifth straight year, and its Horn of Africa neighbors Somalia and Sudan also received low rankings as part of an East African region where journalists are regularly subjected to violence, censorship and lengthy prison sentences served in awful conditions.
The Press Freedom Index is calculated using a scoring system based on a questionnaire distributed to partner organizations, a network of 150 correspondents around the world, and to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.
For the full report and more on the creation of the index, see the full Reporters Without Borders release.
In Eastman Kodak Company’s most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, dated January 3, 2012, the publicly traded company reported receiving notice from the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) warning that its stock was in danger of being delisted “because the average closing price of Kodak common shares was less than $1.00 over a consecutive 30-trading-day period.”
The one-time film giant has struggled to re-build its business as photography moves to digital imaging.
According to a report today on the Wall Street Journal Web site, Eastman Kodak Co. may file for bankruptcy if “in the coming weeks efforts to sell a trove of digital patents fall through.”
WSJ.com cited unnamed sources and noted that a spokesman for Kodak refused to comment on “market rumor or speculation.”
Kodak has six months to bring its minimum share price back above a dollar. In a press release (see the full Kodak press release below) about the NYSE notice, Kodak outlined factors that could prevent it from regaining share price compliance within a six-month period.
If Kodak does file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and its proposal is accepted by a judge and its creditors, Chapter 11 bankruptcy would allow it to reorganize its finances and restructure its debts without liquidating its assets.
Filing for Chapter 11 would not result in Eastman Kodak Company common stock remaining listed on the NYSE. The company would have to be restructured and relisted. (more…)
Over on PDNOnline we’ve gathered together the biggest photography news stories of 2011, a year marked infringements on the rights of photographers, by sticky legal cases whose results will be felt long into the future, and by tragedy. The 15 stories we highlighted were the most-read news articles and blog posts on PDNOnline and PDN Pulse this year.
Which of these stories do you think was the most important news story of the year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
POYi has put out a call for entries for its 69th annual photojournalism competition. Online registration and entry will be open through January 12, 2012, contest organizers say.
POYi has added a new Sports Division, which will include new categories for Sports Photographer of the Year, as well as categories for Sports Multimedia and Sports Editing.
This year’s competition will include two special categories to recognize the work of photographers who documented the Arab Uprisings and the Japan Earthquake.
The Missouri School of Journalism will host the judging in a public forum from February 8 to February 28.
For more information about POYi and details about the competitions see http://poyi.org/.
A man arrested while photographing the police raid to shut down the Occupy L.A. encampment last Wednesday was finally released on $10,000 bail late Friday, according to press reports. Tyson Heder was charged with assault and battery on a police office and resisting arrest.
Heder, who has worked in Hollywood as a film editor and shoots concert videos for rock bands, was among a number of freelancers at the scene of the Occupy raid working without press credentials. The Los Angeles police issued a limited number of credentials, and warned those without credentials they would be subject to arrest.
This video released by CBS shows Heder angrily confronting police officers after one of them pushed him backwards down a set of stairs. “What’s your name?” he demanded several times of the officer who pushed him, before at least two officers tackled him. Several others piled on, and it took them more than two minutes to handcuff him and haul him away.
It isn’t clear from the footage what is happening in the middle of the scrum during Heder’s arrest. At one point, Heder can be heard saying, “You are beating me.” A police officer at the scene says, “Stop resisting the officers.” Heder can also be heard saying “I’m not doing anything” several times.
After his release on bail, Heder uploaded a self-portrait on Facebook showing a black eye. He said “I look like hell and my body hurts pretty much from head to toe.”
Heder thanked his family and friends for bailing him out, and said, “I look forward to proving the charges against me to be completely and thoroughly fraudulent.”
(Watch the video, and tell us what you think of the actions of both Heder and the police officers.)