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Social and mainstream media join forces to cover Afghanistan election

Rivals currently claim to both be on track for victory in the Afghan elections, in a race watched closely by the world’s media – mainstream, citizen and social.

The Guardian, for example, reports that ‘President Karzai’s staff said he has taken a majority of votes, making a second round run-off unnecessary,’ while Abdullah’s spokesman, Sayyid Agha Hussain Fazel Sancharaki, said the former foreign minister ‘was ahead with 62 per cent of the vote,’ even though preliminary results are not yet expected.

But publicity hasn’t always been courted by the government: critics the world over were shocked by the Afghan foreign ministry’s demand for a media blackout. On Wednesday, the government ordered all journalists not to report acts of violence during its elections, as a last minute attempt to boost voter turn out.

Both the foreign and domestic media said they intended to ignore the ban. Rahimullah Samander, head of the Independent Journalist Association of Afghanistan said that they would ‘not obey this order’. “We are going to continue with our normal reporting and broadcasting of news,” he told the Associated Press.

Both domestic and foreign reporters turned out in force to cover yesterday’s election.  Although the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that there have been reports of at least three foreign journalists and several local journalists detained and other acts of aggression towards the media, it is believed that no one was seriously injured.

As with the Iranian election protests, yesterday highlighted the pivotal role social media and citizen journalists now play within mainstream news. Here are a few examples:

  • Alive in Afghanistan introduced a new system during yesterday’s elections allowing citizens to ‘report disturbances, defamation and vote tampering, or incidents where everything ‘went well’ via text message. BBC report at this link.
  • Demotix, the citizen-journalism and photography agency which saw its profile rise during the Iranian election protests, was also instrumental in documenting the day’s events. Follow Afghanistan photographs and stories at this link. “We’ve had reports from Kabul, Helmand, Kandahar and most other provinces during yesterday’s election and the preceding weeks. As well as the political campaigns, our reporters covered the fierce violence including last week’s Taliban attack on a NATO convoy,” said commissioning editor Andy Heath.
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Demotix photographer arrested in Iran will not face further inquiries

Last week we included news that a Demotix contributor had been arrested in Iran in a blog post about the cit-j agency’s content from Iran.

Now an update from Demotix commissioning editor, Andy Heath:

“In these difficult days, it’s good to have some positive news to report from Iran.

“We’ve just heard that the Demotix contributor who was arrested last week by the Iranian police will not face further inquiries and has had his camera returned to him by officials. You may that he was told he could be charged as a spy and potentially executed during his arrest, so this news comes as a great relief to him and – I’m sure – everyone involved with Demotix.

“It’s too early to tell if this is an example of a relaxation of press restrictions in Iran or if, as seems more likely, this particular photographer was fortunate.”

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Cit-J agency photographs from Iran make front page of NYTimes… twice

Further to our round-up of Demotix activity from Iran, here are two front pages from the New York Times, both featuring images from the pro-am agency’s contributors.

Demotix images have also been published by the Telegraph, El Pais, Wall Street Journal, ABC.es, and syndicated by Reuters, AFP and EPA to other outlets around the world.

“The bravery of our Iranian reporters has been astonishing. They are defying their government and risking their safety to tell their stories to the world, and we are delighted to be able to help them make their voices hear more loudly,” said Demotix commissioning editor, Andy Heath. “Demotix exists for moments like this.”

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How Demotix’s contributors have covered Iran election protests

A quick update on the work of pro-am photo agency and news site, Demotix, during this week’s election protests in Iran.

  • On Wednesday Demotix reported that one of its contributors had been arrested. Andy Heath, the site’s commissioning editor, told Journalism.co.uk it is believed the contributor will appear in front of a judge tomorrow [Saturday] and that Demotix is currently seeking more information.

Turi Munthe, its CEO and founder, has made numerous media appearances in which he talked about the use of citizen media during these protests, including the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, BBC News,  and the World Service. Reuters are also featuring Demotix content.

Munthe said: “In terms of sales, we have also hit a milestone. Reuters is syndicating our content all over the world. Yesterday [Wednesday] we were the lead image on the front page of the Wall Street Journal’s website (see below).”

“Iran is experiencing events not seen since the 1979 Revolution. Demotix was set up precisely to cover and report this kind of event, and we have been at the very centre of the storm.”

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