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tony70 | 24.11.2002 20:30


Dear Flashbulb,

I am a British press photographer who along with two other British press photographers spent this week in Prague covering the Nato Summit Meetings and the organised Anti-Nato demonstrations. I myself have covered these type of events since the first Anti-WTO demonstrations in Prague two years ago and then went on to last yearGotenburg, where three protesters got shot and then onto Genoa where Carlo Giuliani was killed.
I would like to respond to a few comments that you made.

I went back to Prague because I thought that it would be a similar event two years ago; very large demonstrations with a few shops smashed in, policeman on fire etc. The expectations of the whole week were very high. I was very wrong.

You say there was ‘a fucking media wankfest’.
Yes it did seem a circus at times with a bit of argy-bargy but we are the ones paid to walk backwards when three anarchists are walking up the road pushing dummys in wheelbarrows. Yes we are paid to be creative and try and tell the story of the day. But did you not also observe the many demonstrators that also had pocket cameras also getting in the scrum chasing pictures with the corporate media? Following the front of the march with the anarchists, I decided to head for the bridge, as two years ago. I thought the scenario would be the same, a bridge too far. Whilst waiting for the anarchist to get to the bridge, I could not help noticing young teenage girls( I would not have known if they were locals) having their picture taken with Czech riot police in the background as if they were a picturesque Charles bridge in the background. You know as well as I do that there are a fair amount of people who tag along to these demonstrations and have little or no interest and just rubberneck – can’t wait to see some cars set on fire, policemen on fire, property damage, and get their compact cameras out to ‘record’ the spectacle – ‘I was there’, I have the pictures to prove it…… Agree with me on this point.

You made the point that about ’I counted up to a total of 75 cameras in 50 seconds’. Consider that there was the worlds press in town this week as well as local Czech media, so the amount of press(corporate media or local press) would have been normal. Two years ago in Prague there were a similar amount of press but more demonstrators. So you well might have felt swamped.

The British Press photographers freelance or staff are employed and paid to interpret and produce what should go in the newspapers the next day. We do care about what we do and do feel a responsibility to how the event is reported via the photos we take. We are not pressured or paid to find violence on demonstrations to send back to our paymasters.

I made the point about corporate media objectivity to one of the IMC reporters last year and he agreed that couldn’t maintain being objective; escecially with IMC and the nature of the organisation. Although local Czech media hyped up the potential ‘anarchists are coming to Prage to smash up the place headlines’ (scaring people), did IMC report make any positive comments on the Czech authorities for not sending robocops on the main demo on Thursday potentially creating a pressure cooker of tension? Only about 20 odd local coppers lead the march and did not interfere in any way…….

But you see you can’t have it both ways. When I was in Genoa last year, I saw the Italian protester Carlo Giulani dead on the floor. As a press photographer I instantly took photos to record the event as a story; it is my job to. It was the first time ever I have seen a dead body. The sequence of pictures that were published around the world the next day was by Reuters photographer Dylan Martinez, corporate media. It made worldwide newspaper and tv headlines. Reuters was able to distribute the story very quickly. A few of the demonstrators also captured images(not sure if they were IMC) and would not have been able to distribute the story and reach the many people around the world.

The point I’m making is that sometimes you need mainstream media whether you like it or not to try and get your point across and to reach more people with your views. I was rather pissed off when the Black Bloc wheeled the dummys on the bridge and left. But that was what was reported and photographed. I admit that smashing up property, cops on fire makes great pictures but have come to realise that that is not the whole story.
Seeing middle aged Italian housewives demonstrating in Genoa last year amongst the tens of thousands that took to the streets was more interesting than the body of a dead protestor on a cobbled street. Yes you did see very little in the British newspapers because the story was about Bush and also the firemans strike. There is only so much space in the newspapers. The next time you see us press photographers on a demo or otherwise, don’t label us a media scrum. Its quite insulting.



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  1. fair cop? — no one