Ahead of my going to the Baltics, Europe, and elsewhere to report, I’d just like to address a few points, before they come up, which, be sure, they will. This follows on from this article here.
What they Say: That I work for RT, was sacked by RT.
Why they Say It: They either want to have a go at me for working for RT, or supposedly being sacked by them. It all feeds into the idea the western media are keen to put out there that if a journalist works for RT, they are agents of the Russian government etc etc. Or, with the latter, that I’m supposedly such a ‘super-propagandist’, even RT sacked me.
The Reality: I haven’t worked for RT for almost 2 years – July 2014 – and I wasn’t sacked. RT gave me the option of continuing working for them, outside of Donbass, or returning to Donbass and our working relationship ending, and I chose Donbass.
What they Say: That, in May 2014, I stood on a tripwire, and claimed I was shot at (and even RT threw me under the bus)
Why they Say It: To attempt to damage my credibility as a reporter.
The Reality: There’s no question, that s a new correspondent, reporting in a situation which quickly escalated from conflict to war, I made a mistake here. And, as a new correspondent in the field, there can be some hard lessons to learn. However, my mistake wasn’t stepping on a tripwire, it was claiming something had happened, my being shot at, which I hadn’t captured on camera.
It was a rookie error, and I learned a lot from it. Never report something you’ve not captured on camera. And never sensationalise – despite my seeing a soldier pick up a gun and hearing shots fired, I could only correctly say ‘shot at’, if they’d actually hit me. What I learned from this incident formed the basis of a career which has seen me cover more hotspots than perhaps any other western correspondent over the past 2 years (including my being wounded while reporting) – never sensationalise, only report what you’ve filmed.
This was May 2014, I continued working for RT until July of 2014. However, I wasn’t at all happy that RT initially changed their story to match the ‘tripwire’ version, before subsequently saying my version may be correct. I like, and watch, RT, have many good colleagues there, however have no plans to resume our working relationship, though we are on good terms and they always have my gratitude for the opportunity given to me.
What they Say: That I was a ‘sex tourist’, ‘sex blogger’ in Ukraine, wrote about my time with prostitutes etc.
Why they Say It: Try to show I’m not a real journalist etc, just a ‘sex blogger turned journalist’ etc.
The Reality: I worked for a year at What’s On Magazine in Ukraine, writing about every subject connected to Ukraine, and life there (including articles on prostitution), and later, I did indeed write a blog on Ukraine. Indeed, around 10% of the articles were about subjects related to sex. I’ve written about prostitutes, and I’m actually proud of all the articles I’ve written on the theme. I considered these valid subjects to research, and write about. At the time, they were. Now, it all seems a bit inconsequential, to be honest, but that’s the difference a war makes.
It was of its time, I’ve got no real plans to write more on the theme. But, I do believe these areas fall within the scope of valid journalism, Louis Theroux, for example, has done a lot on the theme, nor is he alone in that. But you could find almost as many articles about abandoned buildings (a subject of interest) on my former blog, as you could about ‘sex’ (and most of that was in the context of Ukraine as it was – ‘wife-hunting’ tours etc – of which Shaun Walker of the Guardian has written a book)! So I’m about as much of an ‘abandoned building blogger’ as a ‘sex blogger’, it just doesn’t quite have the same ring! If I threw myself a bit deeper into the subject than others – so be it, I try to do that with everything I cover!
And on we go!