Thursday, 29 December 2011

MSF aid workers shot in Somalia

Associated Press is reporting that two people working for the aid group, Médecins Sans Frontières, have been shot in Mogadishu. At least one person is believed to have been killed. 
The incident is reportedly related to an internal staffing issue – AP quoted MSF worker Ahmed Ali, who claimed that a recently fired employee was responsible for the shooting. 
The news appears to have been broken by @HSMPress, a Twitter account run by Al Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group:

HSMPress continued to provide updates on the situation as it developed including information regarding the possible identities of the gunman and the victims. 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Yet more on drone journalism

BBC journalist Stuart Hughes has a useful round up of the interest in drone journalism which includes links to recent newsgathering deployments of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to cover protests in Poland and Russia:
"Dramatic aerial footage of recent demonstrations in Warsaw shot using a small Polish-made drone gave a tantalizing glimpse of how they could be used as newsgathering tools.
Photographers covering election demos in Moscow also deployed a UAV - prompting some onlookers to suspect they had spotted a UFO over the Russian capital
The resulting images were widely used by international news organizations - including the BBC."
Full piece available on the BBC's College of Journalism website.

My previous snippets on this can be found here (on the demonstrations in Poland) and here (on a drone journalism lab in the United States).

Thursday, 15 December 2011

General Richards: The media “frequently draw the wrong conclusion” on Afghanistan

The Chief of the Defence Staff gave an annual lecture to the Royal United Services Institute last night. General Sir David Richards spoke broadly about the global environment, the response of the armed forces and particular strategic challenges.
He argued that Britain’s main challenge was economic and emphasised the cultivation of strategic alliances to compensate for a smaller national military.   
He also spoke about media coverage of the UK armed forces in relation to Afghanistan:
"The operation is on track. We are succeeding and the population supports our efforts, as the latest Asia House analysis shows. Still the Taliban can play one card. They operate in the world of perceptions and convince many in the UK and elsewhere to see the operation as it was, not as it is.
"Perception lags reality by some 18 months. While we are, like a chess player, planning three or four moves ahead we cannot signal our plans openly. That leaves the media frequently, and understandably, to look only at what has happened.
"They frequently draw the wrong conclusion. If you want to see how those on the ground perceive the situation, and have a view on the commitment, resolve and optimism of the Afghan people, I commend this excellent Asia House report."
Not a particularly unusual assessment of media coverage of Afghanistan by a military representative. For what it’s worth, I’m not convinced that it is only the Taliban that operate in the "world of perceptions" and that actually the UK armed forces operate there as well with reasonable success. Distinguishing the ‘reality’ of Afghanistan from this "world of perceptions" is an exceptionally difficult task.
(I’m afraid I can’t find the Asia House report online…drop me a line if you know where I can find it.)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Five links from 2011: 'Twitter'

I am picking out a few of the more interesting links from my 2011 delicious bookmarks. On Monday, I selected five from my 'war reporting' tag. 

Today, I've selected another five from among the bookmarks I labelled 'Twitter' in my delicious account. 


Computational historian Kovas Boguta visualises the Twitter influence network around the revolution in Egypt.

In May, computer programmer Sohaib Athar provided Twitter updates of the US mission to kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Athar was unaware of the significance of what he was tweeting at the time but he knew something was up:
"Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)."
The Washington Post collected his tweets using Storify. 

Meanwhile, Twitter's rapid uptake by all and sundry included the Taliban in May and Somali insurgent group Al Shabaab by December

A rather surreal interactive war of words online now accompanies serious military activity on the ground as ISAFMedia and alemarahweb engage in disputes over Afghanistan while HSMPress take on Kenya's military spokesperson Major Emmanuel Chirchir.    

"Potentially relevant tweets are fed into an intelligence pool then filtered for relevance and authenticity, and are never passed on without proper corroboration. However, without "boots on the ground" to guide commanders, officials admit that Twitter is now part of the overall "intelligence picture"."
5.  British Prime Minister considers curbing Twitter use after UK riots

August's riots in the UK prompted consideration of whether the use of Twitter and social media should be restricted.

As it turned out, BlackBerry Messenger appeared to be the communication tool of choice and recent research by the LSE/Guardian claims that Twitter was more useful in the aftermath to organise clean ups than to incite disorder. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Five links from 2011: 'War Reporting'

This year I bookmarked at least 530 links on delicious. I know that because I try to tag each bookmark by year - I'm three hundred or so links down on last year's total of 854.

Seeing as we're coming to the end of the year I thought I'd pick out a few of the 'best', 'most interesting', 'memorable' or simply 'random' links on various topics from among the 530.

In this post, I've selected from those that are also tagged 'war reporting'.

1. Sebastian Junger remembers Tim Hetherington

In April, photojournalist Tim Hetherington was killed while reporting from Misrata in Libya. Colleague and friend Sebastian Junger reflects on his life and death:
"That was a fine idea, Tim—one of your very best. It was an idea that our world very much needs to understand. I don’t know if it was worth dying for—what is?—but it was certainly an idea worth devoting one’s life to. Which is what you did. What a vision you had, my friend. What a goddamned terrible, beautiful vision of things."
2. Libya conflict: journalists trapped in Tripoli's Rixos hotel
"It's a desperate situation," [the BBC's Matthew] Price told Radio 4's Today programme. "The situation deteriorated massively overnight when it became clear we were unable to leave the hotel of our own free will … Gunmen were roaming around the corridors … Snipers were on the roof."
3. War, too close for comfort

Simon Klingert talks to some people on a train about his life as a photojournalist:
““So have you ever seen someone die?” It was about two minutes into our conversation when the question had popped up. The question. Not that I minded though. After all, it seems like a natural question to ask when you tell people you’re trying to make a living as a war correspondent and it dawns on them you actually like what you are doing..”
4. The hazards of war reporting from behind a desk

BBC journalist Alex Murray reflects on reporting the conflict in Libya from his computer screen:
"But the war has been very close to me, too close sometimes. Viewing them [videos from Libya] in a corner of the newsroom on a screen with nobody else sharing the experience at that moment is a dissociative experience. The process of analysing it, effectively repeatedly exposing myself to the same brutal events, does not make it easier."
5. Image of the child of fallen soldier trends on Facebook

I typed 'Afghanistan' into the Kurrently search engine one day and noticed that this photo was being passed rapidly around Facebook in the United States. I find the photo jarring and unsettling: the artificial neatness of a homely, yet staged photograph here represents the tragic consequences of a chaotic, complicated and distant battlefield.      

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ghosts of Afghanistan: An interview with foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele

At the back end of last month, I spoke to foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele about Afghanistan for the War Studies podcast. I've embedded it below in case you missed it.

Steele's new book, Ghosts of Afghanistan, compares the experiences of Russian (1979-89) and US/NATO (2001-) forces in Afghanistan.

He argues that President Obama can learn from how Mikhail Gorbachev began withdrawing Russian troops in 1988.

In Steele's estimation, Obama should be pursuing a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and other parties with more vigour.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Russian blogger arrested after post-election protests

Russian blogger and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny has been arrested after participating in post-election protests in Moscow against the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. 

He was sentenced to 15 days in jail. 

The BBC has a good profile of Navalny which explains how his Livejournal blog gained traction for exposing corruption:
"The popularity of his blog allowed him to start mobilising internet users to take an active part in his anti-corruption campaigns by means of what he called his "unstoppable mass complaints machine". 
"The "machine" worked by getting internet users to send hundreds of online complaints to investigative and oversight bodies demanding that they look into the case that Mr Navalny was pursuing at the time. 
In March this year, the Russian business daily Kommersant was forced to retract an article which attempted to discredit Navalny's exposure of large scale fraud at Transneft, the state-owned pipeline company in 2010.

Russian bloggers complained earlier this week that Livejournal was down for several consecutive days around the day of the election, alleging that a cyberattack had been designed to stop them discussing Sunday's vote. 

The head of Livejournal, Ilya Dronov, believed the perpetrators had "a mountain of money" in order to sustain the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.  

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

More on Drone Journalism

The other day I posted a link about the use of drones to cover a protest in Poland. And now there is a student Journalism Lab for this kind of reporting: 
"The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications is starting a lab to educate students on what it sees as one of the new frontiers for newsgathering and reporting: drone journalism.

"The lab will look at the ethical, legal, and privacy concerns surrounding the collection of video and photographs from small, unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as provide hands-on experience: students will be building their own drone platforms to collect data in the field."
(Not that me posting a link and the formation of said Lab were in any way connected...)

I'd be up for someone throwing a 'drone journalism'-shaped curve ball at the Leveson Inquiry which is currently looking at the practice, culture and ethics of the press.

I think the inquiry is running a bit short on really difficult privacy questions... 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Election Monitoring Crowd-Sourced in Egypt

From the New York Times' Lede blog:
"Although some prominent Internet activists decided to boycott Monday’s elections in Egypt to protest continued military rule, many well-known bloggers spent the day working as self-appointed election monitors. Using the same social media tools that helped them to force Hosni Mubarak from office, the bloggers posted images of long lines at polling places and passed on reports of apparent violations of the electoral code."
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