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Published in Press Stream:
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Press by
James
@JamesMiller
Personal account of James Miller, Managing Editor of The Interpreter, a publication on Russia, Ukraine, and Syria. A contributor at Reuters, The Daily Beast, RFE/RL, elsewhere.
JamesMiller
This Is What Good Journalism Looks Like. It's Also What Hypocrisy Looks Like
3 months
Why Bill Neely's report on #Homs was great

On December 19, a man identified as Mert Altintas claiming to be a private security officer shot and killed Andrey Karlov, Russia's ambassador to Turkey.

See my coverage of the incident here:

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Assassin Who Killed Russian Ambassador To Turkey May Be Turkish Police Officer, Cites Syria & Aleppo As Motivation

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Dec 19, 2016 19:01 (GMT)
One element to this story that deserves mentioning, however -- the incredible pictures. Burhan Ozbilici, a photographer for the Associated Press, did not run from the gunshots. He kept taking photos as people ran for cover.

AP Definitive Source | AP photographer: 'I composed myself enough to shoot pictures'

When a gunman attacked Russia's ambassador to Turkey at a photo exhibit in Ankara Monday, AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici didn't put down his camera....

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Dec 19, 2016 19:01 (GMT)
Ozbilici should be awarded for his bravery, his commitment, and the sheer quality of the photographs he took which are destined for the history books.

I am struck, however, by a glaring injustice. Since day one, just literally a few hundred kilometers from where this incident took place, there have been absolutely amazing journalists on the ground covering the events in Syria. The pictures and video they produce -- of protests, then police brutality, then war, terrorism, ethnic cleansing -- has been vivid, compelling, and historically important. But since many of those journalists are Syrian, not Western, their work is too often dismissed as unreliable or partisan.

Every day in Syria journalists put their lives on the line to show the world what is really going on. Journalists who are not in Syria, people like me, have been able to prove the reliability of many of these journalists. Yet one reason that the conflict has been allowed to get this bad is that many outside Syria have complained that they do not know what is going on and cannot rely on the information coming out of the conflict zone.

Journalists -- not ones like Ozbilici, but, more accurately, editors sitting comfortably in their offices like me -- get to decide what images history will remember. Sadly, too many journalists have made the wrong decisions and have filtered out the voices coming from Syria.

No conflict in the history of the world has produced more media than Syria, yet perhaps no conflict in the history of journalism has received worse media coverage than Syria's chapter of the Arab Spring. There are, of course, plenty of journalists who have fought against this trend, but their voices, and their images, too often go unnoticed.

Today, people will praise Burhan Ozbilici, and rightfully so. But many of those same journalists have helped bury the images coming out of Syria. There's only one word for that -- hypocrisy.

I wrote about this problem as recently as August, when a picture from Syria did become famous. Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh graced the front page of newspapers across the globe. Too little, too late, sadly. The coverage of this little boy may have helped spread more disinformation than anything, and it certainly did not inspire the world to stop the destruction of the rest of Aleppo.

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Omran Daqneesh's Face Can't Fix a War

This child did not die but he's become a tocsin for the tens of thousands who have and will continue to do so. Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sits in the seat of a volunteer ambulance, covered in a paste of gray ash, soot, and his own blood, his left eye nearly swollen shut.

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Dec 19, 2016 19:26 (GMT)

Media outlets have learned from the Syrian crisis. At the start, since traditional journalism was hard or impossible to do for many reasons, some news outlets resorted to stenography: "he said, she said journalism" where powerful people get to make statements that are reported verbatim by the press without any investigation. It is only more recently that some major news outlets, under pressure by new media outlets, began to adapt to Syria's realities.

Sadly, too little, too late. The public lost the narrative, then, through years of inaction, the conflict became ever-increasingly more complex. Now the public is largely ignorant about even the most basic details of the Syrian conflict, and there is no end in sight.

But good information was always available. Syrian journalists, many of whom filmed their own deaths, were uploading hundreds or thousands of videos and pictures each day.

Unlike the pictures shot earlier today by Mr. Ozbilici, their work may never make the history books. History, as they say, is written by the winners.