“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.”
Journalism.co.uk had been surprised to learn at last month’s Journalism in Crisis event that the BBC used only stringers to cover South America, according to director of news Helen Boaden.
The location of global bureaux ‘is something to do with your colonial past’ she said, adding to comments by BBC director-general Mark Thompson, when he was questioned by an irate audience member on the corporation’s lack of coverage in that part of the world (specifically Latin America).
Does the BBC really have no bureaux in Central and South America? Well, the BBC press office later told Journalism.co.uk, it depends how you define stringers and bureaux.
There is a distinction between ‘newsgathering hub’ bureaux and ‘non-hub’ regional bureaux the BBC spokesperson said. While there are no ‘newsgathering hub bureaux’ in South and Central Americas, there are four regional offices, located in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Havana. How many in each, Journalism.co.uk asked.
Two in each of the four cities: one producer and one local fixer, both on sponsored stringer contracts with retainers. Other individual stringers cover the rest of the continent other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, with freelancers working from Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Chile and Jamaica.
It’s an interesting question: where are international news organisations’ bureaux and why? A particularly pertinent one to raise, given the difficulties in accessing material from Iran at the moment. The BBC office in Tehran remains open, but permanent correspondent Jon Leyne has been ordered to leave the country, the corporation reported yesterday.
While the BBC had two producers inside a Gaza office in 2008, it did not have any permanent crew on the ground and this affected its coverage of the crisis at the end of that year, and the early part of 2009.
NB: Whether Al Jazeera were the ‘only’ English-language international broadcaster in the area for the 12-day media block is still a bone of contention: a journalist later reminded Journalism.co.uk that his employer, Iranian government-funded Press TV, was also reporting from the region during that period.
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.”
It’s been an exciting week for digital media: so much to follow with Digital Britain, Iran elections, Suzanne Breen, MPs’ expenses, and the unmasking of NightJack.
The Guardian’s Media Talk podcast, presented by Stephen Brook, takes on the first four topics in a ‘special-ish’ edition.
“The panel dissect the long-awaited Digital Britain report: a blueprint for the future, or a 21st century fudge? Plus, Twitter in Iran; victory for Suzanne Breen; and a parting shot from Peter Sissons, the grumpiest newsreader of them all.”