A passion for journalism: A video profile of Ryan Libre (Burma)

This is the second one of a series of blogs about the video journalists who form the beating heart of the VJ Movement. They all share at least one thing: a passion for journalism.

Ryan Libre is an American journalist who lives close to border of Burma. He went AWOL (Left the Army without permission) for political reasons and covers stories that are not seen in the main stream media. He says: ‘ the Hollywood duality of good and bad results in stories that are oversimplified. Making it the military government versus Aung San Su Kyi does not cover the reality and complexity of the situation in Burma today.’

Ryan lives in his Mud House deep down in the jungle. His goal is to follow the Kachin ethnic group in N. Burma. There are 135 ethnic minorities in Burma. Ryan: ‘There will be no stability in the country until they are heard’. Ryan will follow the Kachin Independence Organization as a video journalist and photographer in the coming years.

Ryan Libre has also been a ted.com speaker.

Watch his personal profile deep down in the jungle nearby the Kachin.

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A passion for journalism: a video profile of Pippa Ehrlich

This is the first one of a series of blogs about the video journalists who form the beating heart of the VJ Movement. They all share at least one thing: a passion for journalism.

Pippa Ehrlich is a South African journalist. She was inspired by the brave journalists who covered her country in the eighties and nineties. Now it’s her turn.

“My understanding of my own country comes from living and traveling in other places.”

Watch her personal profile, let her take you under water and come back up, with a story to tell.

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Cuba: entusiasmo por el video-periodismo

Llegar por primera vez a Cuba y encontrarse con un país aparentemente paralizado en el tiempo, es algo que te confunde e incluso asusta. Aún más, si el motivo del viaje es compartir con jóvenes comunicadores, las tendencias internacionales del video periodismo en los medios en internet. Sin embargo, esa primera impresión se diluyó rápidamente a medida que comenzamos a compartir con los jóvenes periodistas y realizadores audiovisuales que se inscribieron para participar en el primer taller de video periodismo que VJ Movement realizó en Latinoamérica .

A pesar de que los cables que traerán desde Venezuela la banda ancha a la isla, aún se encuentren estacionados en Santiago de Cuba a la espera de su montaje final, ésta generación de jóvenes periodistas conocen muy bien el lenguaje de las nuevas tecnologías. El acceso a internet es limitadísimo y costoso y no obstante, se las ingenian para subir y bajar videos de la red, seguir parte de los que pasa en el mundo y conectarse a través de las redes sociales.

“Me imagino que costó muchísimo lograr este curso, acá las cosas siempre salen con trabajo, pero de alguna manera salen bien y nos aporta algo a todos”.

Grettel Paz

Compartir una semana de video-periodismo en La Habana con reporteros de la televisión nacional, regional y local, así como con jóvenes realizadores audiovisuales de provincia es darse cuenta que los avances tecnológicos nos facilitan el trabajo, pero no nos convierten necesariamente en buenos profesionales. Y así lo pudimos constatar quienes tuvimos la excelente oportunidad de trabajar con esta nueva generación de comunicadores, quienes además del entusiasmo, la capacidad de trabajo y la creatividad demostraron un altísimo profesionalismo.

“compartir todo el conocimiento que tenemos esa es lo mejor forma de aprender”. Claudio Peláez

Los participantes escucharon muy atentos, las anécdotas relatadas por uno de nuestros VJs Daniel Iriarte durante sus viajes por el sureste asiático y el norte de África. Entusiastas querían saber más sobre la forma como trabajan en solitario, los video periodistas en otros países, quienes en su mochila, tienen que cargar todo el equipo para rodar, editar y enviar sus historias en video para sus diferentes medios. Cinco días que nos dejaron a todos con ganas de aprender más, los unos de los otros, y con la promesa de repetir esta experiencia en el 2012

“En lo particular me fue muy útil para ganar en perspectiva sobre lo que en estos momentos busca el público mundial”. Yoel Rivero

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“Cartoons go straight to the mind and heart”

Vea la entrevista en Español al final.

VJ Movement, along with the Peru’s National Association of Journalists (ANP), recently organized a cartoon exhibition on the subject of Freedom of Expression in the Peruvian capital Lima. It’s a delicate subject in a country that has seen more than its fair share of autocrats and military rulers and not surprisingly Peruvians and foreigners alike came to see the cartoons.

Foremost in our memory are those dark times when the only dissenting voice was the one embodied by the cartoon.

To find out what the exhibition meant for press freedom in Peru, VJM Blog spoke to Roberto Mejia, a veteran journalist and president of Peru’s biggest journalists’ union, the ANP, which hosted the exhibition.

Hi Roberto, how was the cartoon exhibition received by journalists and other visitors of the exhibition?

With great anticipation. It was the first time that Lima had seen an exhibition of the work of cartoonists from around the world, focusing on the theme of Freedom of Expression.

The uniqueness of the event was highlighted by the fact that people from all five continents visited the exhibition.

Many of them commented in our guest book on the value of the editorial cartoon as a tool of scrutiny and one that is becoming evermore popular at a time when Peru is suffering severly from corruption.

The National Association of Journalists of Peru has been honored to host the show. Both cartoonists and journalists use similar tools to deliver our message. Both of us strive to report on wrongdoings in society, which is why we feel so close.

2. To what extent can this exhibition contribute to the defense of press freedom in Peru?

Substantially. Cartoons are a message with a social content that reflects the way many people feel about the reality of everyday life.

The best way to visualize attacks on free expression is to use visual means. Satire and irony get the message across directly. The works exhibited at the show have helped to visualize the various ways of restricting freedom of expression that occur in the world. There’s nothing better than dry humor to raise awareness about this topic.

Moreover, the audience, which not only consisted of journalists, but of representatives of society as a whole, definitely got the message that the messengers are in danger.

3. Editorial cartoonists are very exposed to attacks and complaints about their work. How do you think their vulnerability could be improved in Latin America?

Organization. Our journalists union has taught us that alone we can achieve little, but as a group we can make others respect us and we respect each other. Unfortunately there have been few attempts to unite cartoonists, unlike others who work in communication.

Not only should an effort be made to organize them, but also integrate with other movements of journalists in the region. The cartoonist is a natural social communicator and as such should be recognized and respected.

An attack on a cartoonist is an attack on the freedom of expression. Foremost in our memory are those dark times when the only dissenting voice was the one embodied by the cartoon, a scathing instrument to denounce acts of corruption or negligence by the powers that be. The message is transmitted primarily by the drawing, text is scarce in political cartoons. So the message is direct, it enters through the eyes and goes straight to the minds and hearts of those who see it.

EN ESPAÑOL

VJ Movement Blog entrevistó a Roberto Mejia, presidente de la Asociación Nacional de Periodistas de Perú para informar sobre el impacto de la muestra de caricaturas organizado por ANP y VJ Movement.

1. Como fue recibido la exhibición de caricaturas de VJ Movement por la ANP y por los que visitaron la exposición?

Con gran expectativa. Era la primera vez en Lima que se daba una muestra con trabajos de caricaturistas de todo el mundo, centrados en el tema de la Libertad de Expresión. El ingenio fue destacado por visitantes de los cinco continentes que se dieron cita en la Casa de las Trece Puertas.

Quienes visitaron la exposición subrayaron en el libro de visitas el valor de la caricatura política como herramienta de la crítica y que cobra interés en momentos que el Perú pasa por una situación invectiva en cuanto a corrupción en diversos niveles.

La Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú, gremio que reúne a los periodistas peruanos, se ha sentido honrada de organizar la muestra. Al final caricaturistas y periodistas apelamos a los mismos instrumentos para hacer llegar nuestro mensaje. La denuncia es una constante en nuestros oficios, por ello que nos sentimos tan cercanos.

2. En que medida puedo aportar esta exposición a la defensa de la libertad de prensa en Perú?

De manera sustancial. La caricatura es un mensaje de contenido social que refleja el sentimiento de la persona humana frente a la realidad cotidiana.

La mejor manera de visibilizar los ataques a la libre expresión se dan por la vía visual. La sátira, la ironía consiguen que el mensaje llegue de manera directa. Los trabajos exhibidos en la muestra han ayudado a visibilizar las diversas maneras de coartar de expresión que se dan en el mundo. Qué mejor que el humor ácido para lograr generar conciencia en torno a un tema. Además, por el público asistente, que no ha sido exclusivamente el colectivo de periodistas, sino sociedad civil en su conjunto, hemos aseguro que se haga cercano el mensaje de que “los mensajeros están en peligro”.

3. Los dibujantes de caricaturas editoriales están muy expuestos a ataques y denuncias por su trabajo. Como se puede mejorar su vulnerabilidad en Latinoamérica?

Organizándolos. El gremio de periodistas nos ha regalado la experiencia de saber que solos podemos lograr poco, juntos somos un colectivo que se hace respetar y se respeta entre sí. Son pocas las experiencias -por no decir que ausentes- locales o regionales que reúnan a los caricaturistas -a diferencia de otras expresiones de la comunicación social-. Sin embargo el esfuerzo no debe quedarse sólo en organizarlos a ellos, sino además integrarlos a otros movimientos de comunicadores sociales de la región. El caricaturista es un comunicador social nato y como tal debe ser reconocido y articulado.

Un ataque a un caricaturista es un afrenta natural a la libertad de expresión. Como no traer a la memoria aquellas épocas oscuras en que la única voz disidente era la que se plasmaba a través de la caricatura, instrumento de crítica mordaz para denunciar los actos de corrupción o negligencia de los políticos de turno. El mensaje se transmitía y se transmite principalmente por el dibujo, por cuanto el texto casi siempre en las caricaturas políticas es escaso. Por ello el mensaje es directo, entra por los ojos y va directo a la mente y al corazón de quien lo aprecia.

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Newsletter en Español

Hola a todos,

Espero que están bien. Aquí en VJ Movement han pasado muchas cosas en las últimas semanas y estamos muy contentos de compartir nuestras noticias con ustedes. Como probablemente han visto en el sitio web, hay algunas nuevas historias colgadas, hechas especialmente para la colaboración con la London School of Economics. Más sobre esto más adelante.

También hemos dado la bienvenida a bordo a un número de video periodistas, algunos de los cuales ya han publicado sus perfiles. Sigue leyendo para descubrir donde uno de nuestros corresponsales con sede en Israel ha estado hasta hace poco, y cómo reaccionaron los cartonistas al brutal ataque a su colega sirio Ali Ferzat.

Nueva Serie de LSE

Hemos puesto en marcha varias nuevas series de periodismo de vídeo como parte de nuestro esfuerzo de colaboración con la London School of Economics and Political Science. Las series se centran en regiones afectadas por conflictos y tratan diferentes temas dentro de esas regiones, tales como género, seguridad, información y resolución de conflictos.

Una serie de videos nuevos fueron comisionados para estos proyectos, incluyendo un reportaje en video de Bolivia sobre el mercado negro de productos de contrabando que forma el núcleo de la vasta economía informal del país. Otro video de Olga Behar, en Colombia se centra en la Guardia Indígena, una milicia sin armas que ha desempeñado un papel vital en mantener a las comunidades indígenas locales fuera de peligro durante el conflicto civil del país.

Cartonistas defienden a Ali Ferzat

El mes pasado, el caricaturista sirio Alí Ferzat fue atacada por matones leales al régimen del presidente Assad. Como resultado, el dibujante terminó en el hospital con sus dedos rotos. Ferzat, que es bien conocido en todo el Oriente Medio por sus críticas de abuso de poder y de la corrupción, lo habían dejado desangrando al lado de la carretera.

Naturalmente, en VJ Movement la noticia fue un shock. Tomamos muy en serio nuestro compromiso con la libertad de prensa y gracias a la labor de la Fundación VJ Movement, tratamos de marcar una diferencia.

Cuando nos enteramos de lo que pasó con Ferzat, Cartoon Movement pronto movilizó dibujantes para expresar su indignación. Uno de ellos fue el compañero del Oriente Medio, el dibujante Sheriff Arafa que dibujó esta historieta para mostrar su apoyo a Ferzat.

En el Blog

Video periodista Harvey Stein recientemente completó una historia de vídeo en tres partes sobre una improbable amistad entre un colono israelí y el alcalde de un pueblo palestino, que usted probablemente haya visto ya en el sitio web.

Aquí, en el blog de VJ Movement, Harvey explica acerca de los antecedentes de la historia, cómo se produjo y qué tipo de impacto tuvo la experiencia de rodar esta historia en él como un israelí.

Hasta el próximo mes, en nombre de todos en VJ Movement,

Arend Jan van den Beld y Loudon Thomas

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Making of: Unlikely Friends in the Promised Land

VJ Movement correspondent Harvey Stein recently filmed a three-part video series for us on two unusual peace seekers in the West Bank, part of the Palestinian Territories. The series revolves around a Jewish settler and a Palestinian local mayor who work together to try to bring about understanding between their communities.

In this blog post Harvey gives us some insight into how this series came about.

The Middle East is one place where it’s very clear that “there is more than one truth.” But most peoples’ truths here are hard, inflexible, and usually predictable. So, usually I’m on the lookout for those that, on the other hand, seem to embrace contradiction, or at least make me think for a minute.

Last year, when I first read about several West Bank settlers who in one way or another were reaching out to their Palestinian neighbors, I was immediately curious. Generally considering myself a “lefty”, I admit that I often jump to negative conclusions about those Israelis who choose to live in a place that I don’t consider a part of Israel. As I began to meet several of these settlers, my mind was definitely opened.

The first settler I met was Eliaz, who has a strong religious attachment to the West Bank – what is universally regarded as “the cradle” of Biblical Judaism. And being a poet, he has an artists’ sensitivity that naturally goes against seeing things in black-and-white. When he took me a mere 2-3 kilometers north of his home to visit his Palestinian neighbor, Mohammed, I was amazed. As he said, “galaxies apart.” The whole Israeli/Palestinian predicament, in microcosm.

As I visited both men more, I saw clearly that this wasn’t an equal relationship though – another illusion held by many in the naïve mainstream. I summed it up to myself that Eliaz was helping Mohammed on a material level (battling the local Israeli authorities to get permission to expand the Palestinian village’s school, or pave the single road). And Mohammed was helping Eliaz on a spiritual level (opening his eyes to a difficult reality that he and his brethren have been insulated from for many years).

The next Palestinian I was referred to, also named Mohammed, lived in a large town south of Eliaz’s settlement. This town was in “Area A” of the West Bank, which meant, when I drove into the town, I passed the red sign warning Israelis (I am an Israeli and American citizen) it was illegal to enter. Sure, during the intifada that ended in 2005, it may have been dangerous for an Israeli to enter here, but now, this had morphed into an ironclad separation that helps make the current frozen situation stay frozen.

Having dinner with Mohammed (you should never refuse an invitation for his mother’s cooking), sitting with his sisters and brother – I had a minor revelation: face-to-face meetings (especially over dinner, and not separated by an Israeli soldier’s gun) are exactly what the average Palestinian and Israeli never experience. And exactly what is needed to overcome those walls of fear represented by that “illegal to enter” red sign.

Up until this point in the story, most of my footage had documented individuals and 1-on-1 relationships. We (several of the settlers and Palestinians I had met) decided on what we thought would be a great idea for a final scene: to come together for a group meeting/discussion in a settlement livingroom. While most of the settlers had reached out to visit Palestinians in their homes, many of the Palestinians hadn’t done the same in reverse. This imbalance seemed symbolic of the whole situation: Israelis have more freedom of movement (among other freedoms) than their Palestinian neighbors. For there to be some kind of resolution to this mess, it seemed there must be SOME kind of equal relationship. Having made this video, it seems to me this journey to an equal relationship is going to be a long one though.

by Harvey Stein

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Cartoonist Ali Ferzat strikes back

This great cartoon was made by a friend of the famous Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, who was beaten up by forces loyal to the dictator Assad, last week. The cartoon says it all really. I hope he recovers soon.

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Cartoon exhibition in Peru promotes press freedom

To mark the 83rd birthday of Peru’s National Journalists Association (ANP), ANP and VJ Movement are staging a cartoon exhibition on Press Freedom in the historic center of Peru’s capital, Lima.

In a country where press freedom is hotly debated and often under pressure, the exhibition, featuring the critical work of international cartoonists from the Cartoon Movement Network, has gathered a lot of interest.

To find out how things are going VJM Blog caught up with Antonio Camborda, of the Jaime Bausate y Meza School of Journalism and curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition opened on July 8th and will run for another two weeks. How has it been received so far?

Lots of people are coming to see the exhibition, especially journalists and also many journalism students from different universities. Not only from Lima but also from Cuzco and Arequipa in the Andes and even from the Amazon region.

There’s a book at the entrance to the exhibition where people can write their name and leave a comment about their impressions, and already we have over 200 pages full of names and very positive comments.

Because the exhibition is located in the historic center of Lima, there are also many tourists who walk in to have a look.

Peru has just celebrated presidential elections and the president-elect Ollanta Humala is preparing to govern? Are you worried that Peru is about to undergo changes to its press freedom?

Well, the owners of various media are scared there are going to be changes to the licensing of radio and television bandwidth and that a number of them will lose their licenses.

The journalist using that information could be jailed for up to 10 years.

But our main concern is a bill being prepared that would punish journalists who use information that was obtained by others by phone tapping. At the moment, anyone who illegaly taps a phone can receive a jail sentence of up to 3 years. If the bill were approved, the journalist using that information could get sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.

This is especially serious if you take into account that in the past decade corruption scandals have come to light, thanks in many cases to information that originated from a phone tapping or from intercepted emails.

Much of the corruption committed during the government of the now jailed former president Alberto Fujimori came to light thanks to recordings, many of which featured Fujimori’s spymaster Vladimir Montesinos handing over large sums of cash to owners of newspapers and TV-stations.

How can an exhibition such as this one contribute to the cause for greater press freedom in Peru?

The exhibition helps enormously because it depicts all the ways in which governments and other power groups try to influence and pressure the media. For the public and especially the visiting students of journalism the exhibition shows them just how fragile the freedom of expression is when faced with the powers that be. It makes them conscious of what’s at stake and enthuses them with energy to defend the freedom of expression.”

In the past few days I’ve spoken to journalist from all over the country, from the Andes and from the isolated Amazon region as well as from the coast. Many of them have asked me if it would be possible for the exhibition to travel to the areas they live as well.

The exhibition can be seen at La Casa de las Trece Puertas in front of the San Francisco church on the corners of Ancash and Lampa street in central Lima. So if you’re in the neigbourhood…




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Reporting from a disaster zone: How to prepare

Covering news, by its nature, means preparing for the unexpected. If no one saw it coming, then we all want to read about it in tomorrow’s paper.

And when disaster strikes, as journalists, our job often means heading in the opposite direction of others. Instead fleeing the danger, we’re expected to advance towards its source.

So making sure you’re prepared for any eventualities is an essential part of journalism.

The earthquake in Haiti, is a good example of this kind of situation. At the time of the quake many journalists were simply dumbstruck by the sheer size of the disaster. “I thought I had understood death, but there’s nothing that really prepares you to see sheets over 10 bodies or seeing a sheet over a small body that you know is a child,” New York Times correspondent Damien Cave told an audience not long after the quake. “How do you translate that [and] how do you get that to people? How do you translate an experience that is so broad, that includes so many destroyed buildings, so many dead people?”

Journalist Anderson Cooper famously became part of the coverage in the aftermath of the Haiti quake by saving a boy from danger.

But even now, a year and a half after the disaster, life on Haiti is still far from normal. Rebuilding is still in its initial phase, hundreds of thousands live in refugee camps and outbreaks of disease are frequent.

Tjeerd Royaards, editor-in-chief of Cartoon Movement, is preparing to travel to Haiti this week, on a special mission to search for and train local cartoonists. I caught up with him and asked him how he was preparing for the trip.

“Thankfully, I knew this was coming and so I’ve had a lot of time to prepare,” Tjeerd told me. Not everyone traveling to a disaster zone is that lucky and so Tjeerd has made sure he’s uses his time as effectively as possible.

Here’s a list of the kind of steps he took to make sure he’d run into as few surprises as possible in Haiti.

1.     Lots of reading about the country: not only in effort to make sure knew more or less what was going on, but also, Tjeerd told me, to help with his assignment, the training of cartoonists and helping them to cover the reconstruction of the country.

2.     Equipment: Aside from the usual things such as laptop and camera, there are some other things to consider when traveling to disaster areas. Think of power surge controllers and many, many spare batteries. Being cartoonists, Tjeerd and his colleagues are also taking a scanner!

3.     Vaccination: Tjeerds doctor advised him to take seven different injections but as he discovered, every doctor is different. Fellow colleagues Matt Bors and Caroline Dijckmeester who are traveling to Haiti from the US got slightly different vaccine cocktails, Tjeerd said. He received vaccinations for Diphtheria, Typhoid fever, polio, hepatitis A&B, tetanus and even rabies.

4.     Medical insurance: Getting proper insurance with medi-vac is important for this kind of trip. Not only for your own risk, you don’t want to become an extra burden for an already severly stressed health system either. Tjeerd found a Dutch insurer who would insure him for a month for 170 Euro (250 USD). That insurance also includes injuries suffered due to “molest” which is probably a good idea in Haiti, where the crime rate is still pretty high.

5.     A Fixer & driver: If it’s your first time in the country or if you don’t have much time to spend, getting a fixer can definitely be worth the extra cost. “Haiti is still pretty dangerous for a westerner go about by himself,” says Tjeerd. He found a list of people English speakers offering their services on the net and contacted a few. Prices quoted were between 100 and 150 USD a day.

6.     Place to work – An important thing to consider, though often overlooked is a good place to work. Often a hotel with a good internet connection will suffice. But when, as in the case of Tjeerd there are three of you + plus students you need a bigger space. Tjeerd contacted Reporters Without Borders, who kindly offered the use of the their media center in Port-au-Prince.

In general consider the possibilities you have of reporting on the go. Twitter has been very useful in several disasters, thanks to the likes of Ushahidi.

In Haiti a combination of both social media, GSM and radio turned out to be very important. So make sure you have access to all different types of outlets.

Useful Links:

Reporting disasters blog post by science journalist and tsunami veteran Nalaka Gunawardene.

The News Manual – Chapter 43.

Tragedies & Journalists: Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma Guide.

Tragedias & Periodistas: Mismo guía pero en castellano.

Knight Center Report on “Lesson from Haiti

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VJ Movement enters YouTube competition

VJ Movement co-founder Thomas Loudon has entered YouTube’s Next Up-competition aimed at helping a new generation of online video producers.

The winners of Next Up receive a cash prize and lots of help to advance their YouTube careers, besides being invited to attend an interactive, hands-on, 4-day YouTube Creator Camp in London. In our case a lot of that money will go towards commissioning more great video journalism from our network of VJs.

But to win, Thomas needs your support. So how can you vote?

  • First of all, you need to have a YouTube account. If you don’t already have one, you can open one here.
  • Once you are signed in, go to www.youtube.com/nextup
  • Select Netherlands under the tab “sort by country”
  • Select the VJM entry, the one with the flames in the thumbnail and the title “Get the Full Picture!” Click on the thumbnail.
  • Now vote by clicking the ‘thumbs up’ button.

You can vote during the next 9 days and you’re allowed to vote everyday again and again. Please do!

While you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven’t already. We’re getting dangerously close to 1 million views already!

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