My 3 Years of Being a Fully Crowdfunded Journalist!! How’s that Possible? How’s it Been? What Next?

In 2014 while covering Donbass, for the first part I worked with the channel RT – submitting my video material to them. In this time, I had full freedom to film, and upload whatever I saw, to you YouTube channel, which I did, and even in 2014, my priority was to develop this, my own portal. In the later months of 2014, and start of 2015, I did some work for the Russian channel Zvezda, but ended this associated at the start of 2015. And since then? Well, since February 2015, I’ve been a completely crowdfunded correspondent. 

In 2015, I decided to give crowdfunding – still a relatively new concept then – a go while considering all options (earlier, crowdfunding just hadn’t seemed viable). So it was, I worked on in 2015 using a combination of my savings, and some crowdfunding. And I made a few realisations. That crowdfunding is not that easy – everyone has bills to pay, etc, and it’s hard to get people to make their own financial commitment to journalism, when journalism is everywhere, and free. Yet I also realised – it’s do-able. If I live modestly, keep costs down, it’s do-able.

And more, having worked for channels before, and the inevitable constraints that brings, then experiencing the freedom of being completely independent which crowdfunding brings, it became not ‘a’ way to continue my work, but the only way. No one tells you what to do, say, or where to go, all the decisions are your own. Complete freedom, independence. So it was, at the start of 2016, I released this video declaring my future as a fully crowdfunded correspondent – 

Now of course, with this freedom, and possibility, come responsibilities, and challenges. Anyone who makes a donation to my work expects me to fulfil my side of the commitment – to make interesting, original, unique reportage which reach a wide audience, make a difference, make their contribution count. So, I have to always think about how to do this, where to go, and what to film for challenging reportage which couldn’t, or wouldn’t be done by anyone else.

That means monitoring comments, viewing figures on my YouTube channel, and more. Making sure there is always fresh content, from at times unexpected places, but always actual, relevant. I don’t always get it right, at times in these three years I’ve missed the mark. But, I’ve learned from these times, and when it’s hit home, it’s hit home – my reportage from Crimea, in English, undisputed number 1 on YouTube in 2017, for example.

3 years on, almost 3000 videos on my YouTube channel, over 60 million views, references in media all over the world. Reportage on everything from Brexit to immigration in Germany (that, over 1 million hits). the jungle in Calais, places as diverse as Daugavpils in LatviaBelval in Luxembourg. Of course, Donbass, Crimea, and mainland Russia. And more – recently, South Ossetia – 

Special reportage, films, more, for 3 years, all completely independent. Not supported by any company, organisation, or corporation. Supported by people like you, reading this, who want to keep independent journalism alive. From my side? Well, crowdfunding does not bring riches, have a look for yourself, and that’s the point, it’s not about money at all. It’s about truthful journalism, reportage of things as they are, showing things as they are, exposing propaganda for what it is.

And it’s not about being on the mainstream channels either – they’d never have it. It’s about putting truthful reports out there in the public domain easily findable, so anyone who wants to find them, can!

And thanks to you, in the 3 years, I’ve raised enough to finance my work.  The 3 years have brought success, world-watched, world changing reportage. But the best is still to come – better reportage, better films, bigger projects. And all thanks to those people who want to make their own contribution, of whatever size, to helping truth win, in the world of information war we live in.

To support my work, simply click here. 

Euromaidan, and We’ve Known Each Other for 4 Years Now!

This week, it’s nothing to celebrate of course, but some of us have now known each other for 4 years. 4 years ago I was living in Odessa, Euromaidan had kicked off, and I was watching on, in horror not only at what I saw, but that all my former colleagues – I’d worked in Kiev as a journalist for 2 years – were supporting it, all the western media were cheering for me. The reasons I took against Maidan were fairly delineated, and definite. In the time I’d lived in Kiev, I’d followed the rise of neo-Nazi party Svoboda, had been to their congress, marches, had been shocked by what was pure, patent, unconcealed fascism (photo, right, I’ve also written about it here).

And here’s a thing, at the time the western media agreed with me about this, there were articles about Svoboda in this vein. And in my time in Kiev, I’d actually written for leading western publications – the New Statesman, more, had been senior journalist at the city’s What’s On magazine for a year.

When Euromaidan got going, some of the first footage I saw from it featured Svoboda members, Oleg Tyagnibok, and other radicals, not only in the crowd, but up on the hastily-erected stages. It’s not a big stretch to think that ‘if guys from a party based on the original Nazi party are supporting this, then maybe this isn’t the right side.’ Or more aptly, the correct side, because Maidan was the right, the far-right, the misled, the deceived, the chronic Ukrainian dreamers who really did believe that if you force out an elected president and government, by violence, then it’s happily ever after…

I started tweeting the Maidan I saw, in the context I knew, early doors. And I’d add that the context was that I knew Ukraine, having been to every part, including Donbass (here, Donetsk 2012). And with an overt anti-Russian mood to Maidan from early on, it was clear that Donbass, Crimea of course, weren’t going to be a part of it.

The fact that my tweets didn’t take the narrative of the west meant my phone was silent, there was no inbox with offers to report on the ‘glorious uprising‘, ‘peaceful people’s revolution‘ etc, that the west wanted to hear about . They went with journalists who would write that copy for them, and they were many. So they were in, I was out.

I thought ‘f*ck it’, effectively, and just kept on writing articles for my blog,  sometimes several a day (grahamwphillips.com – I took that site down ages ago, it was a personaly blog hardly appropriate for covering war on, you can find it archived). The blog posts started attracting a readership, and one day I got a Facebook message from a producer, Maria, at RT, asking me to go on air for an interview. I’d never in my life have thought of working for Russian media before, nothing against them, but I’d always as a British person generally gravitated to the BBC, et al. But, you know what, if they’ll let you say what you see, what you know to be true, then go for it. So, I went for it, this video from early December 2013.

Which means some of us have known each other for 4 years already.

Like my Work? Now’s the Time to Support!

It’s the start of the month, and like you, I need to make a plan for the month ahead. If you want to support me, be a part of making all my work possible, you can do it in one click, here – https://www.paypal.me/grahamwphillips

Of course, none of what I do is about money per se, actually I’ve never actually ‘made’ any money in this entire period covering events from Maidan in 2013, and on.

Everything goes towards expenses – petrol, equipment, and so on. Towards making all the independent journalism you see, viewed by millions across the world every month, possible.
I’ve got huge plans for this month, to bring you really exclusive, ground-breaking reportage. I’ll also be making a new video thanking all of you who make it happen!
Thanks for making it all possible!
Graham

A Graham Newsletter (#35) Misinformation, Disinformation, and how to fight all that.

Recent weeks have seen many developments, including the blocking of my YouTube channel, for 2 weeks, for a video from Donbass, from 2014, of which I’ve written about here – https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/09/07/fighting-censorship-and-the-future-of-my-18-videos/

The actions of YouTube have forced me to remove all 18+ video material – from the war in Donbass, from my YouTube channel – I’ve written about that here, and will be posting the material here.

In removing this material, I removed an archive of over 100 videos, much of it documenting Ukrainian war crimes in Donbass. Millions of views, new views every day. Of course, people need to know this, to see this. I’ll be using this site, the Truth Speaker, where there’s no censor at all, to present these videos in the correct format. This video, result of Ukrainian shelling of Lugansk, August 2014 –

And here, information about, and context of this video – 

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/09/09/18-donbass-war-when-ukrainian-shelling-hit-lugansk-august-2014/

Not able to use YouTube, which holds an effective monopoly for videos, means we need to try that bit harder to get the word, the truth, out. Please, share, repost, like, do what you can – we need to be together in this goal, of more people knowing the truth! 

This was the video which started the problems with YouTube, with them removing this, then content featured in the video (already on YouTube for years)

I’ve now taken the necessary steps to bring my account in line with ‘YouTube Community Standards’, but the problem is that the ‘standards’ have changed – a video that was approved by them in 2014, and on the site for years, is now a ‘violation’. That video, my first to pass 2 million views, and rising all the time, one which had a real impact in showing people the realities of war in Donbass

Of course, it can be hard, emotionally, for me to remember these thing. I’ve written about that here. 

Censorship is just one of the issues facing journalists. There are the dangers inherent with the profession, for which some journalists have made the ultimate sacrifice. Here, I’ve written about US journalist Christopher Allen, killed while covering conflict in Sudan –

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/09/07/christopher-allen-kia-a-journalist-is-a-journalist/

And Kim Wall, recently killed while reporting on a homemade submarine, off Denmark. 

May they both rest in peace, and be remembered for their work. 

I’ve written about them both here, and about the role of a journalist, to go to where there is either the least information, or the most misinformation – https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/09/14/the-role-of-a-journalist-to-go-to-where-there-is-the-most-disinformation-or-no-information/

The world has several current key epicentres of mis, and disinformation. North Korea is certainly one of them. I was very pleased to present an exclusive interview, on the Truth Speaker, with the guys who made this indie documentary, The Haircut, well worth a watch:

And the exclusive interview, with Alex and Aleksa – here! 

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/09/15/exclusive-interview-with-the-haircut-north-korea-documentary-guys/

As for me, I’ve written here, about moving on from Donbass, but staying with Donbass, when I’ll return there, and more. 

For now, I’m in another of one of the world’s disinformation capitals, Crimea!!

That began with, a simple, but effective, tackling of the constant rhetoric from Ukraine that the beaches in Crimea are ’empty’, ‘everything is bad’ etc... How better to do that, than to let Ukrainians in Crimea themselves, speak for themselves –

Full interviews here! 

And look out for much more reportage to come! Fighting information, and disinformation, on the beaches and on! 

Christopher Allen, KIA: A Journalist is a Journalist

I’ve written about the American journalist Christopher Allen, recently killed covering conflict in the South of Sudan, here, on the Truth Speaker:

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/08/29/christopher-allen-remembering-a-fallen-journalist/

The South Sudan government has recently changed its story and now says it “regrets” the killing of an American freelance journalist, on Saturday, August 26th, sending its condolences to his family. Chris was killed by South Sudanese government forces while embedded with rebel forces loyal to Riek Machar in the South Sudan-Uganda border area of Kaya.

But initially, Information Minister and government spokesman Michael Makuei had said:

“Sixteen rebels, including a white rebel, were killed. The identity of that man is not known, but he was among the rebels who attacked the garrison.” Then, Makuei changed the narrative, saying Allen was killed in the cross-fire as government troops fought to repulse the rebels.

Yet, Chris was shot in the head, and at pretty close range, by Sudan government forces. This wasn’t ‘caught in the crossfire’, etc, someone saw Chris, and shot him in the head…

A rebel spokesman said that Chris (a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, who began his journalistic career in Ukraine, 2014) was wearing a clearly marked press vest, and had been shot at after he began to take pictures.  “Allen was targeted. The person who shot saw him very clearly,” Colonel Paul Lam Gabriel told the AFP.

Sudan’s government have said Allen was “not targeted” and that the government regretted it, but added that “anybody on that side is usually a target. Mr Makuei claimed Allen had entered South Sudan illegally after being denied a visa “because of his hostile reports.” I could find no evidence of his ‘hostile reports’.

They further added  “If Allen entered South Sudan illegally then he is a criminal,” said Mr Makuei. “Had he not died we would have apprehended him and taken him to the court.” (Note: Chris apparently entered South Sudan through Kampala. About 20 other journalists also were denied entry into the country by South Sudan’s Media Authority in May and June.) And that “that if Allen was reporting “on the activities of the rebels then definitely he was a rebel.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has said in a statement it was “deeply troubled” by the suggestion Allen was not deserving of civilian status and called for an independent investigation into the circumstances of his death. His parents support this investigation, adding: 

“We respect and admire our son, whose unyielding passion for journalism was driven by his desire to tell some of the world’s most critical stories. As loving parents, we were fearful whenever he entered a war zone and our hearts sank when we learned he was going to South Sudan. Yet Christopher was a truth seeker, committed to uncovering the full context of the stories he reported even when this required personal risk. His research was firsthand and thorough, and he cared deeply about the real people involved in and affected by conflict.

We are devastated by the loss of our beloved son and cannot begin to imagine our lives without him. Like Christopher, we believe access to information is fundamental to a free and thriving society and we must continue to protect journalists in order to maintain press freedom in the United States and across the globe. Just as Christopher sought the truth of the tragedies and difficulties of others, we will now work to establish the truth of the circumstances of his killing.”

More than one million people have fled into neighbouring Uganda since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, creating one of the world’s biggest refugee crises.

Ten journalists have been killed in South Sudan since 2012. My own view is that whether or not Chris was wearing a ‘press’ vest is unimportant. He was clearly not a combatant. He was clearly a journalist, doing the job of a journalist, reporting from the scene. South Sudan have ruled out a probe into Chris’ death. 

I remember this tweet Chris sent me, when I was in the Lugansk blockade of 2014, Donbass.

And I’ll remember Chris Allen as a brave man, a journalist, unjustly killed, trying to bring us the truth. Respect, and RIP Chris.

Christopher Allen – Remembering a Fallen Journalist

The other day I was saddened to read of the death of Christopher Allen, a US journalist, killed in conflict in Sudan. And I must admit, it’s a conflict I had no idea of, until reading of Christopher’s death, as he was caught up covering battle there.

In the context of Christopher’s sad death, I’ve read up on that situation –

South Sudan’s civil war erupted in December 2013 just two years after it obtained independence from Sudan, when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Thousands of people have been killed by the violence, which plunged part of the country into famine earlier this year. Some four million have been displaced, according to UN figures.

I never met Chris in person, but he did contact me back in 2014 –

I sometimes saw Chris’ work on the Ukraine war in the time after that. I do have generally mixed views on his work, given that it was almost entirely for the western media, pro-Ukraine, anti-Russian media. Here, Vice, for example.  His work did follow the pattern of ‘Russia-backed separatists’, etc. However, being in western media, it couldn’t be any other way – editors wouldn’t let it be any other way, and there were signs that Chris was trying to go against the grain.

In his article this year from the Toronto Star, some signs of a journalist trying to, within the confines of the anti-Russia, anti-Donbass republics remit, some signs of a journalist trying to break some truth through, about the problems in Ukraine.

Chris’ sad death, at only 25, puts his work, and life, into a new focus. He literally went to one of the most dangerous place in the world for a journalist. And he would have known that. His death shows just how fierce the fighting is there, and sheds light on a situation which has seen over a million flee their homes, mass death, and the threat of humanitarian crisis for civilians.

His death has further seen calls and pressure for peace in the area.

Chris gave his life for his work, reportedly killed for photographing the battle. In his death, he shows us the true purpose of a journalist – to cover untold stories.

Chris, we never met in life, but in death, you have my full respect. RIP.