When Being a Photo journalist Is About Surviving

Stemn, Gregory H.
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p33
This article relates the author's recollection of the grave dangers he faced when he tried to document the Liberian government's brutality. While I was photographing a rally at the University of Liberia in support of three jailed journalists. then-President Charles Taylor sent armed soldiers and police to disperse the students. On film I had captured the brutality the security forces used against the students, but then some plainclothes officers demanded that I hand over my camera. When I refused, they knocked my camera to the ground and destroyed it. I was beaten and accused of being an enemy of the government. The pictures of what I had witnessed were gone. This wasn't the only incident in which, as a news photographer, I was physically attacked and my equipment confiscated. Sadly, it became a familiar ritual on many of my assignments. Journalists worked like this in Liberia, as each day's assignment presented a fresh challenge of survival. To do our job, we braved death threats by state security officers as we tried to photograph moments and actions that would make real what was happening for those who would see our images. Journalists could never be sure they would be alive to cover the next assignment.


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