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Iran admission of guilt after shooting down of Ukrainian Airliner: January 12, 2020

Posted by bohdan.warchomij in : Metaphor Online, New York Times , comments closed

KYIV, Ukraine — Iran’s stunning admission that its forces errantly downed a Ukrainian jetliner — reversing three days of denial — did little to quell growing fury inside the country and beyond on Saturday as the deadly tragedy turned into a volatile political crisis for Tehran’s leaders and overshadowed their struggle with the United States.

Ukrainian officials criticized Iran’s conduct, suggesting that the Iranians would not have admitted responsibility if investigators from Ukraine had not found evidence of a missile strike in the wreckage of the crash, which killed all 176 people aboard.

Protests erupted in Tehran and other Iranian cities as dumbfounded citizens found a new reason to mistrust Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and other officials. Protest videos even showed some shouting “Khamenei is a murderer!” and anti-riot police tear-gassing violent demonstrators.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in his first reaction to Iran’s announcement, said his country would “insist on a full admission of guilt” by Tehran. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, home to many of those aboard the destroyed jetliner, demanded a “full and complete investigation” and said “Iran must take full responsibility.” Both spoke by phone with Mr. Rouhani.

Contradictions and miscues complicated Iran’s message even as it took responsibility. Iran’s military, in its initial admission early Saturday, said the flight’s crew had taken a sharp, unexpected turn that brought it near a sensitive military base — an assertion that was immediately disputed by the Ukrainians.

Within Iran, as citizens vented anger toward their government, officials offered a mix of contrition and an insistence that Iran was not solely to blame. Mr. Rouhani called the error an “unforgivable mistake.” General Hajizadeh, whose forces were responsible, said he had wished death upon himself because of the blunder.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote in an apology posted on Twitter: “Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster.”

Some protest images posted on Iranian social media even showed torn photos of General Suleimani.

“Death to liars!” and “Death to the dictator!” shouted Iranians gathered in squares in the capital Tehran, videos shared on social media showed. “You have no shame!” shouted several young men, and the crowd joined in a chorus.

In another tense spillover from the protests, the Iranian authorities briefly seized Britain’s Tehran ambassador, Rob Macaire, for what news accounts in Iran called his “involvement in provoking suspicious acts” at a protest. Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, denounced the seizure as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Many protesters carried candles and placed flowers at the gates of the universities and other public places in Tehran. Conservatives and supporters of the government accused the authorities of having intentionally misled the public about what had brought down the plane. Its passengers included many young Iranians on their way to Canada for graduate study.

The criticism of Iran over the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737-800, now threatens to eclipse whatever international sympathy Iran has garnered in its escalating confrontation with the Trump administration, which has faced widespread criticism over stoking a violent confrontation with Iran’s leaders.

For three days after the crash, Iranian officials not only denied their military forces were responsible but blamed what they called the aircraft’s mechanical problems and said suggestions of Iranian culpability were American propaganda. Satellite surveillance and video clips of the plane strongly suggested Iran’s own air defense missile system blasted the plane out of the sky.

The Iranians reversed themselves early Saturday.

The newly critical language by Ukrainian officials in the aftermath of Iran’s admission stood in sharp contrast to more cautious statements in recent days. It partly reflected the frustrations in a country that had been thrust in the middle of the conflict between the United States and Iran.

Mr. Danilov, the Ukrainian security official, said Iran had been forced into conceding its military had brought down the jet because the evidence of a missile strike had become overwhelmingly clear to international investigators.

He said Ukrainian experts on the ground in Iran had gathered such evidence since their arrival on Thursday despite apparent Iranian efforts to complicate the investigation, including by sweeping debris into piles rather than carefully documenting it.

“When a catastrophe happens, everything is supposed to stay in its place,” he said. “Every element is described, every element is photographed, every element is fixed in terms of its location and coordinates. To our great regret, this was not done.”

Mr. Zelensky’s office posted on Facebook photos of plane wreckage and a Canadian man’s passport showing small piercings — consistent with the hypothesis that shrapnel from a surface-to-air missile hit the plane.

“We expect Iran to assure its readiness for a full and open investigation, to bring those responsible to justice, to return the bodies of the victims, to pay compensation, and to make official apologies through diplomatic channels,” Mr. Zelensky said in a post on his Facebook page. “We hope that the investigation will continue without artificial delays and obstacles.”

Who Is Afraid of Shahidul Alam? August 24, 2018

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Photo of Protest by Monirul Alum a contributor to Metaphor Images Agency

Shahidul Alam is a Bangladeshi photographer and writer with a special interest in education and new media. He set up the award winning Drik Picture Library, the Bangladesh Photographic Institute, Pathshala — South Asian Institute of Photography the DrikNews photo agency and Banglarights, the Bangladesh Human rights portal. His work has been shown in leading museums including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Royal Albert Hall in London, Le Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

Photo Shahidul Alam DRIK Majority World


The current question is. Who is afraid  of Shahidul Alam, a respected photographer and educator in his own country.

On Aug. 5, Shahidul Alam, the acclaimed Bangladeshi photojournalist, was dragged from his home by around 30 plainclothes policemen and taken into custody. The policemen forced their way into Mr. Alam’s apartment building at 10:30 p.m., snatched the cellphones of the building’s security guards and destroyed its video surveillance cameras.

Yet someone managed to record the moment via a cellphone video. Mr. Alam can be heard screaming. “I am innocent,” he says, repeatedly. And, “I want a lawyer.” It was horrifying to watch Mr. Alam, whom I know as an amiable, self-effacing, brilliant man, scream in the video. Thus does terror enter our daily lives these days.

Mr. Alam’s work over the decades has captured some of the most important political and ecological questions in Bangladesh and the region around it. A friend remembers waking up to the tragedy of the Rohingya people from Myanmar after seeing an exhibition of Mr. Alam’s photographs in New York. I first encountered his work after a cyclone in Bangladesh in 1991. I was involved in the relief effort and visited the affected area after the storm. Mr. Alam’s photographs captured the reality of my experience. Befittingly, in 2014, Mr. Alam was awarded the Shilpakala Padak, one of the highest honors for artists in the country, by the president of Bangladesh.

The trigger for Mr. Alam’s arrest was an interview he did with Al Jazeera, in which he spoke critically of the brutal repression of student demonstrations in Dhaka by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He also spoke about official corruption, years of misrule, the suppression of dissent and extrajudicial killings and disappearances under the watch of Ms. Hasina’s governing Awami League. Paradoxically, the imprisonment of Mr. Alam only proved his point.

Photo Shahidul Alam DRIK

After a speeding bus killed two students in Dhaka in late July, thousands of students — including schoolchildren — protested in the streets. As the protests intensified into a general outcry against the government, the government responded by unleashing mobs of the Awami League party faithful to attack the student protesters. Researchers from Human Rights Watch spoke to several eyewitnesses who described how the protesters were attacked by members of Bangladesh Chhatra League and Awami Jubo League, the student wing and the youth wing of the Awami League.

Mr. Alam was among the journalists who witnessed the Awami League faithful attacking student protesters while the police stood by. He photographed the protests and the repression.

The celebrated photojournalist wasn’t the only person arrested. Numerous student protesters were also arrested and were tortured in police custody.

General elections in Bangladesh are expected between October and December. It is the obligation of artists and intellectuals to be constructively critical of their country of citizenship. Ms. Hasina’s government must be deeply afraid of a credible, respected person like Mr. Alam, whose criticisms are taken seriously, both nationally and globally. His arrest and imprisonment is an attempt to silence critical voices.

Ms. Hasina’s government is not stopping with his arrest. It is trying to find ways of defaming him and tarnishing his reputation. Mr. Alam’s partner, Rahnuma Ahmed, an anthropologist, visited him in prison and was startled to realize their meeting was being secretly videotaped by the prison authorities.

“Friends in the electronic media tell me they have been instructed by the agencies to produce ‘dirty stories’ on Shahidul, there is even talk of constructing him as a pedophile — pathetic given his love for children known to everyone,” Ms. Ahmed said in an email.

This is not surprising, given the bleak drift toward authoritarianism in Bangladesh in the past few years. As reported by Human Rights Watch and numerous journalists, hundreds of Bangladeshis have been picked up by law enforcement agencies and have disappeared for weeks or months at a time. The whereabouts of many of them remains unknown. In the name of a war on drugs, hundreds have been killed by extrajudicial means.

Two days after Mr. Alam’s arrest, he was produced in a Dhaka court and charged under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s infamous Information and Communication Technology Act, for online speech that “hurts the image of the nation.” He was barefoot and limping when he was dragged into court. Witnesses said Mr. Alam showed clear signs of mental and physical abuse. He shouted: “I have been assaulted. My bloodstained shirt was washed and put back on me. I was threatened that if I didn’t testify as they directed, I would be further … ” Then his voice trailed off and the rest of what he said was unclear.

The court allowed the police to keep Mr. Alam in custody for a week and also allowed brief visits to a hospital for medical treatment. On Aug. 12, Mr. Alam was produced in court again and sent to jail until the investigations into charges against him are completed. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years in prison.


Stanley Greene Photojournalist Dies at 68 May 20, 2017

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A Tribute to Stanley Greene, Teller of UncomfortableTruths

By James Estrin  

Stanley Greene, who started as a music and fashion photographer and later became one of the leading international conflict photographers, died Friday in Paris at age 68. A founding member of the photographer-owned agency Noor Images, he had been ill with liver cancer for several years, associates said.

Mr. Greene, one of the few African-American photographers who worked internationally, was known for his visceral and brutally honest photographs of wars, including conflicts in Chechnya, Georgia, Afghanistan and Iraq, that at times were too raw for many publications.

“You want to sit there comfortably with your newspaper and blueberry muffin, and you don’t want to see pictures that are going to upset your morning,” Mr. Greene said in a 2010 interview with Lens. “That is the job of a journalist, to upset your morning.”

Mr. Greene’s commitment to telling the unvarnished truth extended to his candid assessments of the ethical questions facing photojournalism. At times he seemed like an Old Testament prophet, willing to speak unsettling truths no matter the consequences. He railed against the use of Photoshop to alter the scenes of news images, a practice that he said turned photos into “cartoons.” And he scorned photographers who staged images in an attempt to recreate a missed moment after arriving late to a news scene.

“The public has lost trust in the media,” he told Lens in 2015. “We have to be ambassadors of the truth, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard because the public no longer trusts the media. We are considered merchants of misery and therefore get a bad rap.”

Mr. Greene had once aspired to be a painter like Matisse or a musician like Jimi Hendrix, but he discovered his true instrument the first time he picked up a camera, he told Michael Kamber in the 2010 Lens interview. Mr. Kamber, a former conflict photographer himself and the author of “Photojournalists on War: The Untold Stories from Iraq,” this week compared Mr. Greene to a jazz musician.

“Stanley is like the Charles Mingus of photography,” said Mr. Kamber, the founder of the Bronx Documentary Center. “Stanley is about his heart, his emotions and his feelings. His photos are very impressionistic, like a stream of consciousness. Stanley was living on the front edge; all out, all the time. He wasn’t holding anything back for the future.”

Mr. Greene received numerous honors including the Eugene Smith Grant in 2004, the Lifetime Achievement Visa d’or Award in 2016 and five World Press Photo awards. His books include the autobiographical “Black Passport” and “Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003.” Anne Tucker, the former curator of photography for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, featured Mr. Greene in “War/Photography,” a comprehensive exhibit and book.

“You have to acknowledge the strength of his eye, his capacity to encompass issues in a picture frame — to understand a story and put it into visual terms — as well as his courage and tenacity,” Ms. Tucker said. “He was one of those journalists who went towards the bullet because that’s where the story was.”

What he was not, she said, was a good self-promoter. “He cared about the story, he cared about the issues, he cared about getting it right,” she explained.

Stanley Greene was born in Brooklyn on Valentine’s Day in 1949 and grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y. His father, also Stanley, was an actor, producer, filmmaker and director; while his mother, Javotee Sutton Greene, was an actress. His father, also an activist devoted to black culture, was blacklisted as a Communist in the 1950s and reduced to taking anonymous bit parts. Still, he had hoped his son would become an actor.

He had a “somewhat privileged yet traumatic childhood,” said his longtime friend Jules Allen. “There was a loneliness there that was insatiable, but he was blessed enough to at least partially deal with his pain through photography.”

As a teenager, he joined the Black Panthers and was active in the antiwar movement. His dreams of becoming a painter gave way to photography, and he was encouraged in that pursuit by the renowned photojournalist W. Eugene Smith.

In the 1970s, Mr. Allen and Mr. Greene shared a darkroom and a studio in San Francisco while Mr. Greene studied photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and photographed the local music scene. Among his early work was “The Western Front,” which chronicled the city’s punk scene in the 1970s and ’80s.

He cut as striking a figure as some of the acts he photographed. “Stanley was a punk rocker who drove a Mustang,” Mr. Allen said. “He wore a black leather motorcycle jacket, a black beret, two scarves, three watches and four bracelets as well as two great cameras and a bandolier of film strapped across his chest.”

Mr. Greene worked as a fashion photographer in the 1980s and moved to Paris where he later joined the Vu photo agency. He traveled constantly, working extensively in Africa and the former Soviet Union. He was the only Western photographer in Russia’s White House during an attempted coup against the president, Boris Yeltsin. Trapped inside, amid shelling and gunfire, Mr. Greene continued to photograph throughout the building, capturing two images that received World Press Photo Awards.

“The fact that I thought I was going to die gave me courage,” he told Lens in 2010. “Courage is control of fear. I think that this incident is the one that steeled me. I’m no hero, but it made me so that once I commit to a story, I have to see it through.”

A 1992 Moscow encounter with Kadir van Lohuizen, a fellow member of Vu, marked the beginning of a close friendship that would continue at Noor. “He was always my big brother,” Mr. van Lohuizen said in an interview on Thursday. “Stanley is my big brother, and Noor is his family”

The agency was born from a conversation between the two, who often worked together.

“Stanley and I wanted to be independent at the time of transition from analog to digital and from small agencies to a few large ones,” Mr. van Lohuizen said. “We believed that visual storytelling was the essence more than ever and that we should stake the ship and steer it in our own direction.”

In “Black Passport,” Mr. Greene talked candidly about how he felt while covering stories of violence or catastrophe in Rwanda, Chechnya, Haiti and New Orleans. He spoke just as openly about his personal life, including his marriages and numerous love affairs. His Noor colleague Nina Berman described him as “a hopeless romantic, forever falling madly in love — and being pained and hurt.”

He was a “gracious and generous mentor” and teacher to young photographers, she added, and one of “too few” black American photographers working internationally.

Not surprisingly, given the emotional and personal toll of his approach to life and work, along with the physical dangers, he discouraged others from following in his footsteps.

“Though I’m bombarded by young photographers who ask me how to become a conflict photographer, I tell them, ‘Get a life,’ ” he said in 2010. “If they persist, I tell them about the consequences. I tell them there is no glory.”

Even as his health was failing, Mr. Greene continued to work, returning last month from a road trip through northern Russia where he and Maria Turchenkova began a project on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

At the end of “Black Passport,” Mr. Greene reflected on the centrality of storytelling to the human experience. Wars are fought, he said, because people have different views of the same story.

“Photography is my language and it gives me the power to tell what otherwise is not told,” he said. “Eugene Smith told me vision is a gift, and you have to give something back. He haunts me like that. It’s not the bang-bang that compels me. It never was. At the end of the day it is not about death, it is about life. The quest is to try to understand why human beings behave the way they do. The question is, how does this happen? And sometimes, the only way to find out is to go to where it is happening. One day the neighbors are talking to each other over the fence, and the next they are shooting at each other. Why is it that we don’t consider life precious, and instead, we literally let it drip through our fingers?”





Heather Angel Capturing Pollination April 26, 2017

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Spend just a few minutes in a garden this time of year, and you will likely see a pollinator buzzing or fluttering from flower to flower. While most of us are aware of this vitally important ecosystem service, the act itself — the transfer of pollen from stamen to stigma via tiny feet, wings, antennas or mouthparts — is largely unseen.

In “Pollination Power,” Heather Angel, a photographer based in Surrey, England, exposes the process in macrophotography, which stands out not only for its range and aesthetics, but also for its scientific exactness: She was determined to show not just creatures in flowers, but the instant release of pollen itself.


Australian Photojournalist Daniel Berehulak wins Second Pulitzer April 14, 2017

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Heavy rain pours on the body of Romeo Torres Fontanilla, 37, who was killed by two unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles. Oct. 11, 2016, in Manila, the Philippines. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Australian freelance Photojournalist Daniel Berehulak was awarded the Pulitzer Prize – his second – for breaking news photography for his coverage in the New York Times of the brutal antidrug campaign by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. E. Jason Wambsgans of the Chicago Tribune received the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for a story that chronicled the recovery of a 10-year old boy who was the victim of a shooting.

Police investigators gather evidence in the killing of Frederick Mafe, 48, and Arjay Lumbago, 23, as their bodies lay sprawled in the middle of a street. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Over a span of 35 days, Mr. Berehulak photographed 57 homicides at 41 crime scenes where drug users and dealers had been murdered by vigilantes emboldened by President Duterte’s mandate: “kill them all.” He worked closely with Rica Concepcion, a veteran local journalist and fixer, to interview bystanders and the relatives of victims, go to jails and rehabilitation centers and to accompany police officers in different neighborhoods. The resulting interactive piece, “They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals,” featured both his images and the vivid text accompanying it.


Inmates watch as drug suspects are processed inside a police station. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The Importance of History: An amazing Investigation into Black Lives on Brooklyn Street January 28, 2017

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This amazing story from Annie Correal who finds an abandoned photo album on a street in Brooklyn and tracks down the family

who put it together highlights the importance of personal and local history to record what is lost on a daily basis.

Personal history is ephemeral, like people’s lives and can easily finish up on the trash heap.

Annie Correal’s personal adventure and perseverance has given us an eloquent insight into black lives

and a wonderful history lesson.


Love and Black Lives,
in Pictures Found
on a Brooklyn Street

A discarded photo album reveals a rich history of black lives, from the
segregated South to Harlem dance halls to a pretty block in Crown Heights.



One night six years ago, on a quiet side street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, I came across a photo album that had been put out with the trash. I lived around the corner, and I was walking home when I saw it sitting beneath a streetlamp on Lincoln Place.

It looked handmade, with a wooden cover bound with a shoelace. But it had been tied up with twine, like a bunch of old newspapers, and left atop a pile of recycling.

Whitney Richardson New York Times: African Stories January 11, 2017

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The news is ethnocentric and parochial. Unless it has an international impact on business or economics or a countries vested interests it remains off the Western radar.  Whitney Richardson pushes an agenda for the use of local photographers and journalists to increase exposure to stories that are important internationally. When I covered the Orange Revolution as a freelancer in Ukraine in 2004 most of the working photographers for Western publications were from Western Countries. The wire agencies were not organised enough to be a threat to freelancers. That changed subsequently. As in Iraq and Afghanistan and now Syria local photographers are extensively used. Local contact and local knowledge are more than useful for quality journalism. Bohdan Warchomij Metaphor Online

Whitney Richardson NEW YORK TIMES

Akintunde Akinleye was at home one December morning in 2006 when a friend called him with urgent news. Hours earlier, a petroleum pipeline had exploded in a town outside Lagos, Nigeria, his home city, leaving more than 200 people dead. Hopping on his motorbike with his camera, Mr. Akinleye, a Reuters staff photographer based in Nigeria, swerved through miles of thick traffic and arrived on site in less than 30 minutes.

Pacing through flaming rubble, he spotted an older adult man carrying a bright blue bucket of water. Mr. Akinleye lifted his camera and took several shots of him rinsing his face as dark smoke stained the sky. His final frame was circulated to news media globally, and even made the front page of The New York Times. It also earned him a World Press Photo award for spot news single in 2007, making him the first Nigerian to receive the prestigious award.

Mr. Akinleye’s sudden thrust into news media prominence is rare for even the most experienced photojournalists, but it’s an even rarer occurrence for an African one. Of the most covered news events in sub-Saharan Africa over the past several years — including antigovernment protests in South Africa and Ethiopia, the Boko Haram kidnapping in northern Nigeria and West Africa’s Ebola crisis — only a handful of stories were assigned to African photographers by major international publications.

The absence of local coverage in international markets has also been reflected in the top awards. According to World Press Photo’s State of Photography 2015 report, only 2 percent of their contest submissions annually come from African photographers.

Since World Press Photo released its initial report in 2015, Lars Boering, the organization’s managing director, said accessing data about their contest applicants as well as surveying the photojournalism industry were critical first steps in closing this gap. The organization recently held its first Joop Swart Master Class in Kenya, working with photographers across East Africa, and plans to host another one, in Accra, Ghana, this March. Other organizations, including the Magnum Foundation and the Prince Claus fund, have also invested in supporting photojournalists on the continent.

“We needed to flip it open. It will make us vulnerable, but it was important to start talking about it,” said Mr. Boering, who is based in Amsterdam. “There are a billion people living in Africa. We should make sure the visuals we get reflect our worldview.”

Mr. Akinleye, who has spent the past decade covering West Africa for Reuters, said as digital cameras have become more accessible, he has seen a surge in the number of local photographers in the field. But better equipment hasn’t necessarily equated to more opportunities for aspiring photojournalists, he said. With the absence of formal photojournalism programs at universities, young photographers are not learning the fundamentals of storytelling and editing, Mr. Akinleye said. Independent newspapers in his country have also struggled to navigate hostile relations with government leaders known for threatening the local news media, he said.

“Young people are asking, how do we get work,” said Mr. Akinleye, who noted that the majority of working photographers he knew in Africa were stringers for wire services.

“I have told them to look for opportunities abroad to gain exposure and to learn the ethical standards of the industry,” he said. “If I wasn’t working with Reuters, I probably would just be part of the crowd.”

International news agencies, including The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse, have long been entry points for local photojournalists, especially during times of extreme conflict. During the United States-led war in Iraq, news organizations heavily depended on local news photographers, out of concern for safety and financial pressures, to document the scene. Within months of training alongside other wire photographers, Iraqi photojournalists began dominating international coverage of the war — producing award-winning images of the political transformation in their home country.

“We had taxi drivers and former studio photographers and we gave them cameras,” said two-time Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist, Muhammed Muheisen, who is currently the chief photographer for the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan for the AP. “The region was getting a lot of attention, so it became a place where Iraqi photographers could develop and show their talent.”

Khalid Mohammed, AP’s chief photographer in Iraq, was one of those emerging talents. Mr. Mohammed, who worked for an Iraqi newspaper before the war, gained the reputation of beating foreign photojournalists to deadly scenes and was one of six Iraqis on the AP team that won the Pulitzer Prize for photography in 2005. Many of his most striking images, including one showing the charred bodies of U.S. contractors hanging from a bridge in Fallujah in 2004, appeared in publications around the world.

“I choose to cover the war to expose the crimes and violations against my people,” Mr. Mohammed, who is currently in Mosul, wrote in an email interview. “You had to be ready to accept the sacrifice and know that this picture may be the last image,” he said.


Daniel Berehulak in the Philippines for the New York Times December 12, 2016

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Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

New York Times photographer Daniel Berehulak photographed 41 murder scenes — and 57 bodies — in 35 days in Manila.

This amazing story elevates investment in journalism and Daniel Berehulak, Pulitzer Prize winner for his coverage of the ebola crisis in Africa, is the right photographer to analyse what is happening to the country.

When  Rodrigo Duterte became President of the Philippines  he said he would be happy to kill millions of people to rid his country of drugs. Already, President Duterte’s war has claimed thousands of lives, including nearly 2,000 reportedly killed by Philippine police.


Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

The Savagery of Isis: Retaking Falluja; Photos and Text by Bryan Denton for the New York Times August 4, 2016

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Bryan Denton

I accompanied Iraq’s elite counterterrorism force and other units from the Iraqi military and the federal police into Falluja at the end of June, during the final days of their long battle to wrest back control of the city from the Islamic State.

Falluja was the first Iraqi city to fall to the Islamic State, more than two years ago, and the militant group had all that time to learn the city, sowing traps everywhere. It was only after a long siege that the Iraqi forces moved to take the center.

In the last stages of the battle, members of the counterterrorism force, in coordination with other Iraqi units, fought their way into the neighborhood of Al Jolan in Falluja, where Islamic State fighters were making their last stand. As we moved through the bombed-out streets, gun battles raged, and the insurgents’ improvised mortars exploded among the narrow alleyways and rubble in a last-ditch effort to halt the advance of Iraq’s security forces.

What, exactly, the Islamic State fighters were holding out for was lost on me. The city had been surrounded for months. Nearly all the civilians were gone, either driven out by their rulers’ brutality in the early days, or escaping during breaks in the fighting as the Iraqi forces approached.

The Iraqi Army, special forces and the federal police relied on heavy artillery, close air support from United States aircraft and a patient advance through the city.

Bryan Denton

The remaining Islamic State fighters were forced to be opportunistic. During one visit with the Iraqi special forces, I saw a soldier who had been shot through his right calf, either by a sniper’s round or random gunfire.

Gruesome markers of the battle dotted the roads leading into Falluja.

A charred body of an Islamic State fighter had been left on the side of a road that the Iraqi forces had bulldozed through a small field south of the city as they began the assault. A metal cable was tied tight around one of the body’s legs, and the head had been lopped off.

A police commander chastised two Shiite militiamen who were taking cellphone pictures of each other stomping on the corpse triumphantly.

Bryan Denton

One officer, who spoke openly only on the condition of anonymity, citing military protocol, told me that the Islamic State was different from the insurgents he was used to fighting. You can negotiate with insurgents, he said in English laced with military jargon he picked up from years of working with United States Special Forces, but the Islamic State fighters seemed to have embraced unbridled and inflexible savagery.

Bryan Denton

Another officer, Lt. Hassan Almosawi, from Iraq’s Emergency Response Brigade, took me to an Islamic State prison his unit had discovered in a once upscale neighborhood in central Falluja.


Tyler Hicks discusses his and the NYT’s fellow photographers Pulitzer Prize for capturing the resolve of refugees on the shore of Lesbos and in Europe May 2, 2016

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Tyler Hicks, a staff photographer for The New York Times, joined “PBS NewsHour” to discuss his recent Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for capturing the resolve of refugees, the perils of their journeys and the struggle of host countries to take them in:

Photo Tyler Hicks

“This was a really interesting story because there’s a small amount of space for all these refugees arriving along the shores of Lesbos. You had tens of thousands of people flooding into this space that’s just a couple of miles long. … This [photo] was unusual because it was just before dark and there were no other boats coming. This one last boat came in and there was no one there to receive them, no help for them. … I really felt it was important to capture that moment.”