By Graham Lanktree
As many major news organisations close foreign bureaus, freelancers are called on more and more to cover global conflicts. They face risks often without the structure, training and resources that come with having a large media outlet behind you.
Continuing a conversation that began at the end of October in New York at the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), Vaughan Smith, founder of the Frontline Club, spoke with leading editors at the club in London on Tuesday 18 November. They discussed the importance of pay to reflect risk, training, and new ways of determining how much responsibility for freelancers news outlets should take on.
By Elliott Goat
“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”
Janet Malcom, The Journalist and the Murderer
Hosting a debate on the role of fiction/nonfiction in documentary storytelling, David Wilson, founder of True/False film festival, chaired a panel of past True/False filmmakers Kevin Macdonald, Sarah Gavron and Beadie Finzi. He began by asking them all what it was that guided their decision making process that ultimately skirted the line between fictional representation and factual accuracy.
“When you find yourself in a position where you are investigating how to shape a story, how to shape a narrative, how do you determine whether you are going too far or you have not gone far enough . . . that this is right and this is wrong?”
By Mackenzie Weinger
If the event on Wednesday 12 November had taken place in Thailand instead of at the Frontline Club in London, members of the Thailand: A Kingdom in Crisis panel could have been jailed.
That’s because panellists broke the Thai lèse majesté law — the crime of violating majesty — by discussing the country’s monarchy and talking frankly about the issues surrounding the royal succession. Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej is 86 and ailing, after all, and in May of this year the military staged its 12th successful coup since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.
By Francis Churchill
On Monday 10 November, the Frontline Club hosted a preview screening of Liberia – Living With Ebola, the first episode in Al Jazeera’s latest series of Africa Investigates. The film documented the impact of Ebola on those at the front line of the disease in Liberia, focusing on the communities worst hit and the healthcare workers who run the Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) and take away the highly infectious bodies of the dead.
By Georgia Luscombe
On Friday 7 November, the Frontline Club played host to award-winning journalist Marjorie Wallace and director Jacqui Morris (McCullin, 2012) for a preview screening of Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime, followed by a Q&A.
As audience members stirred with sympathy for the victims of the thalidomide scandal, portrayed with honesty and dignity as they spoke directly to the camera, Wallace and Morris described their own determination to bring one of the greatest horrors of the post-war era to popular attention.
“You liberated them,” Morris said, “they thought that they were out there on their own.”
By Graham Lanktree
The young Harvard-educated economist Miklós Németh didn’t dream he would play a decisive role in the fall of the Berlin Wall when he was appointed Prime Minister by Hungary’s Communist Party to fix the nation’s finances in late 1988. Only a year later he was at the centre of it all.
On Wednesday 5 November, the Frontline Club tuned in to the world premier of 1989, a new documentary by Anders Østergaard detailing the months and days of Németh’s tense political manoeuvring that precipitated demolition of the wall, as it was shown in 57 cities across Europe during the 2014 Copenhagen International Documentary Festival (CPH:DOX).
By Tom Adams
On 3 November the Frontline Club hosted an event organised by the Czech Centre London, the insight with Michael Žantovský was part of the ‘Made in Prague’ festival season. Michael Žantovský, who is the current Czech Ambassador to the Court of St James, was discussing his new book called Havel: A Life.
Václav Havel was elected as President of Czechoslovakia in December of 1989 after 41 years of communist rule. His political activities during the communist regime brought him under the surveillance of the secret police and led to multiple prison stints, including a four-year incarceration between 1979 and 1983. His Civic Forum Party played a major role in the Velvet Revolution, and Havel himself was instrumental in dismantling the Warsaw Pact and expanding NATO eastwards.
By Tom Adams
On Thursday 30 October, an excited crowd packed the Frontline Club for an insight with Gabriella Coleman, currently the Wolfe Chair in scientific and technological literacy at McGill University, where she researches, writes about and teaches on computer hackers and digital activism.
In her latest publication, Coleman provides a unique insight into the mysterious group Anonymous. Ben Hammersley, presenter of the new BBC World News series ‘Cybercrime with Ben Hammersley’, which begins on Saturday 1 November, had the enviable task of discussing Coleman‘s new book, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous.
By Max Hallam
While working on a documentary trilogy about post 9/11 America, Poitras began to receive encrypted emails from a subject known only as ‘Citizen Four’. This citizen claimed to be ready to blow the whistle on a global intelligence effort involving private information and communications of regular people. Poitras and confidant Glenn Greenwald flew to Kong Kong on Citizen Four’s instructions, where they would dissect the information he had to give them. It was here that Citizen Four revealed himself as the man we now know as Edward Snowden.
By Elliott Goat
“Sometimes they don’t even know where here is.”
In the build up to the Thomson Reuters Foundation Trust Women Conference, on Monday 27 October the Frontline Club hosted a debate on modern day slavery and human trafficking chaired by Prabha Kotiswaran, senior lecturer in Law at King’s College London and advisor to the ILO-DFID Anti-Trafficking Project.
By Antonia Roupell
“Does the Pubic Still Care?” was the poignant title of the discussion on conflict and disaster reporting which was chaired by Ben Parker at the Frontline Club on Thursday 23 October. The event was organised by the Oversees Development Institute and Humanitarian Policy Group. Channel 4 News anchor, Jon Snow, and senior reporter for the People and Power programme on Al Jazeera English, Juliana Ruhfus, were joined by experts in aid and development, Marc DuBois, former head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Eva Svoboda, research fellow in the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute.
By Josie Le Blond
What is the future of news? Will the public know more or less in the internet age? These questions were the focus of a panel discussion marking the launch of the autumn issue of Index on Censorship magazine at the Frontline Club on Wednesday 22 October.
Shrinking international news budgets, bureau closures, the rise of the freelancer and the citizen journalist all made for gloomy prognoses for the business-as-usual news model, agreed the panel chaired by The Times columnist, David Aaronovitch.
By Isabel Gonzalez-Prendergast
On Wednesday 22 October, the autumn issue of Index on Censorship magazine launched at the Frontline Club. The magazine’s editor, Rachael Jolley, introduced the issue and handed over to author and columnist, David Aaronovitch, who chaired the accompanying debate on the future of journalism.
Aaronovitch initiated the discussion by asking each panellist to speak individually on the future of journalism before inviting the audience to partake.
By Max Hallam
The Term offers a fascinating insight into the world of the groups opposing Vladamir Putin’s presidency in Russia. After its screening at the Frontline Club on Friday 17 October 2014, producer Max Tuula joined the audience for a brief Q&A via Skype.
The film follows the efforts of a number of opposition leaders, including Alexei Navalny, who runs the dominant anti-corruption blog and is an active political figure, and Ilya Yashin, leader of the Solidarnost opposition movement. The third main person of interest is Ksenia Sobchak, a prominent political activist who works alongside Ilya Yashin. Sobchak is of particular focus because she is Vladamir Putin’s goddaughter.
One of the opening scenes shows a chorus of partygoers singing, “I’m free, I’ve forgotten what fear is,” swiftly followed by footage of marches and protests and clashes with the police.
The various opposition groups are not depicted as aggressive movements. Rather, The Term reveals a spider’s web of different groups carefully considering and co-ordinating their next steps. A poignant moment in the film is when Ksenia says to Ilya Yashin, “It is important to know when to stop.”
By Graham Lanktree
Interactive reports that hold short-attention spans online are the holy grail for web editors. Loc Dao, an executive producer and creative technologist at the National Film Board of Canada’s digital studio, has come up with a few recipes for success.
At the Frontline Club on Wednesday 8 October, Dao shared the lessons learned on the road to brilliant projects like the NFB’s Seven Digital Deadly Sins partnership with The Guardian in June, and Bear 71, which challenged the nature of the medium with its mash of video, gaming technology and interactive installation at its 2012 Sundance Film Festival debut.