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. 

Excellent News!! – No Ukraine at the World Cup 2018!

Despite the fact that I spent over 3 years in Donbass, much of it reporting on Ukrainian forces shelling civilian areas of Donbass, with mass loss of life, I still try to stay objective about Ukraine.

In 2012, when I worked at What’s On magazine in Kiev, I would write articles defending Ukraine from what was unjustified western attack. Here, for example, as in early 2012 I address the western campaign to trash Ukraine ahead of Euro 2012.

Of course, it’s a different world now, a different Ukraine. But even after covering events like this, where Ukraine had shelled civilians in Donbass –

And many, sadly, similar instances, I remind myself that these are people who claim to represent Ukraine, but are not Ukraine. Ukraine in the prism of those ‘ambassadors’ exists in a monstrified, maniacal form of its earlier self. A country of which a small minority overthrew a democratic government in early 2014, then set about attacking anyone who didn’t accept their actions. Whether that be shelling civilians of Donbass, who rejected their version of Ukraine, or doing as much mischief in Crimea as they are able to. 

But, from Crimea, where I write this, I’ve met many decent, nice Ukrainians, this year –

However, sadly, they are not the ones running the show in Ukraine at the moment. And whether they even represent the majority of Ukrainians anymore, is a moot point, with many in Ukraine having full-scale swallowed their own propaganda, that ‘everything is Russia’s fault‘, they must ‘hate Russia‘, ‘Putin is to blame‘ for all their own problems, and so on. Don’t just take my word for it, look at these Ukrainian fans, at Euro 2016 – 

They are whipped up, agitated into this baying, mob-mentality state in no small part by Ukraine’s bonkers president Poroshenko. Poroshenko came to power off the back of the Maidan coup which ultimately amounted to a few thousand ultra-national Ukrainians in Kiev, forcing then president Yanukovych to flee for his life. So he knows full well that the erstwhile latent but potentially ever-ready to rock radicals must be appeased, kept at bay.

Poroshenko does this by telling them just what they want to hear. It’s all ‘Slava Ukraina‘, a nationalist chant strongly associated with WW2 Ukrainian Nazism, endless glorifying of WW2 Ukrainian Nazi Stepan Bandera, and considerably more in this canon.

Of course, Poroshenko’s favourite refrain, and one which plays particularly well to a home crowd struggling with a country beset with problems only becoming worse, is that Russia is the root of all Ukraine’s problems. Poroshenko’s Twitter is awash with the kind of apropos of nothing abuse, vitriol directed at Russia of the kind one may more commonly associate with a one of the football fans in the above video – this just a sampling –

And of course, Poroshenko loves nothing more than combining his hatred of Russia with his love of creating a public spectacle. So, we have his brandishing a bit of a bus he claimed Russia was responsible for the destruction of, at the start of 2015 at the Davos Economic Forum, in Switzerland –

Waving Russian passports, as ‘proof of Russian involvement in war in Ukraine’, at the Munich Security Conference, also 2015 –

And the list really does go on, and on, and of course, western media loves it all, always happy to let Poroshenko turn any event into the ‘Poroshenko vs Russia’ show. Last night, before the match, Poroshenko tweeted his support for the Ukrainian team, as they faced Croatia in the final match of qualifying, Group I, for World Cup 2018. If Ukraine had won, they were in the play-offs, and in with a chance of making it to Russia.

And this, would have been all Poroshenko’s christmases (which he wants tomove the date of, by the way – the existing January 7th date ‘too Russian’), coming at once. The opportunities and possibilities presented by Ukrainian qualification for the World Cup 2018, would have been simply mind-blowing. Boycott? Ok, that’s one. Or what about go to Russia, and take every opportunity with the eyes of the world on Russia, to create scandal, drag politics into sport, cause scenes, conflict, agitation, provocation, make the football a sideshow to the Poroshenko show, with him using the World Cup as a platform to boost his bid for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential elections. Pause for a moment, just imagine the opportunity afforded by a World Cup to do what one will, at one’s will, in the full knowledge a sympathetic global media will be cheering you on….

But, it wasn’t to be. 2 decent, but defendable goals by Andrej Kramarić, and Ukraine won’t play any part of 2018’s World Cup, apart from the inevitable trolling and attempts to capitalise on the attention, now reflected, anyway. But, that will meet with limited success. Sore losers. Ghosts at the feast. They had a winnable match against a Croatia side on a slump, with a new coach, in their own backyard, and they turned a performance so limp as to suggest some of the players themselves didn’t much fancy being a part of the Poroshenko spectacle of Ukraine at the 2018 World Cup.

Ukraine blew it. For all the good Ukrainians who support their national team, it’s bad news. For all the other Ukrainians who couldn’t wait to go to Russia, and delight in causing as many problems as they can with the ‘get out of jail card’ of knowing what an image a Russian police officer arresting a Ukrainian would present, no matter what they’d done, it’s worse news. For Poroshenko, it’s a major blow, suddenly the world stage Russia 2018 presents has no place for him to go and, figuratively of course, piss all over it.

For fans of football, it’s truly excellent news. It means we can look forward to a World Cup 2018 of sport, of high-octane clashes between the world’s best players, at some of the world’s best stadiums, devoid of all the drama that would have cast black clouds over proceedings. There will be other issues, and scandals, of course there will. But, none to hold a candle to what Ukraine was going to unleash.

It’s a reminder that in sport, there is an innate fairness. Invariably, the best team wins. Ukraine’s footballers were taken apart on their own turf last night. The trojan horse that Ukraine’s footballers would have brought to Russia 2018 didn’t get over the last hurdle. A victory for Croatia in Kiev, a victory for football fans all over the world. A rare instance where Ukraine must actually admit their own failings have nothing to do with a Russia on which they will look on in 2018, but with few looking back at them.

On a purely footballing level, as a football fan, from me – it’s a like!! 

Exclusive Interview with the Haircut (North Korea Documentary) Guys!

Here, I speak with the creators, two Aussie students,  Alex Apollonov and Aleksa Vulovic, creators of hit documentary The Haircut (2017) A North Korea Adventure. 

1. How did you come up with the idea, and why?

Generally, with all the media we consume on a daily basis, we came to the realisation that North Korea was special, in that you could say whatever you want about it, and it would be believable. No matter how bizarre the story, reputable news companies and random clickbait websites would spread it around virally.

(Photo, Aleksa and Alex, both 24 at the time they traveled to North Korea and students at the University of Sydney. Aleksa studying International global studies and Alex am studying Social Work. Both of Alex’s parents were born in China and are of Russian backgrounds and migrated to Australia when they were young children. Aleksa was born in Belgrade, Serbia and migrated to Australia with his family in 1996 when he was 4.)

We ended up getting into a lot of arguments with our friends regarding the ridiculous news stories about North Korea, and we decided to focus on one of these bizarre stories (particularly the haircut) in order to talk about the weird relationship western media has with the DPRK.

This seems to be mirrored in the various “travel videos” and documentaries filmed in North Korea. Where, in order to get views and make themselves seem like brave Indiana-jones style adventurers, everyone seems to follow the same sensationalist narrative.

2. Where did you find finance for the project?

Where do Australians finance their projects of getting drunk in Thailand for a month? We saved up through casual work while we were studying so we could do a 3 month trip across China and Russia, visiting the DPRK for 2 weeks in between.

3. The production is amazing, can you say more about that, the complexities of the project (all the archive material, effects, etc)… and the style is definitely alternative, how did you come up with that concept?

Thanks so much for the kind words! Neither of us had any experience in video-editing so it was all learnt through trial and error, and we’re very happy with the skills we’ve learnt along the way.

In terms of the style, we had a specific message that we wanted to push regarding North Korea, and that was for people to understand the countries specific, unenviable context in the international community and realise the West’s role in degrading and demonizing the country.

The problem is that the average internet user won’t sit through any of that. So we decided to use humour to try and break that barrier. Also, we decided to frame it in the same “clickbait” way that all those horrible North Korean news articles are framed to get attention. So we tried to hook people in with the bizarre story of “going there just to get a haircut” and hope we could hold their attention long enough to change their mind.

4. Did you really just go there? How was it to be there? Where did you stay, did you need accreditation etc?

It was surprisingly easy to get there. They seem to be pretty eager to get tourists into the country as they are aware of the western media narrative and their form of tourism offers them an opportunity to provide a different narrative to foreigners. So we just filled out of a form online with a tour company, and it was sorted out really quickly with minimal effort (less effort than we went through to enter China or Russia during the trip).

So we staying in the Yanggakdo hotel in the middle of Pyongyang, and we were accompanied by chaperones whenever we left the hotel. We travelled down to the DMZ and stopped at some other towns along the way.

It was quite an interesting experience. We did feel constricted in the sense that we were on a guided tour, but the select places that we did see were a lot nicer than we had expected.

The most surprising thing we encountered though, was the reaction from fellow tourists, who refused to see North Korea in any way other than the dominant Western narrative. We’d be on the train to Pyongyang, passing through 100s of kilometres of corn fields, and the tourists, high on their own self-importance, begin to speculate how it was acres of “fake corn”, set up just for them.

5. Did the authorities there know what you were doing? What’s it like to be a journalist there, any restraints or?

The authorities weren’t aware of what we were trying to do. We just went in on tourist visas. But with the proliferation of YouTube, the line between tourist and journalist is pretty vague. They allow people to come in on tourist visas and film with all kinds of camera gear, as long as they called themselves “tourists”. I assume, if we were affiliated with a media company, they might have cottoned-on and made us apply for a journalist visa which is notoriously hard to get. But at the time of filming, we weren’t sure of what we were actually trying to make or aware of how much attention our little project would get.

Note, in the event, The Haircut attracted global media attention, and is rising towards 200,000 views on YouTube, and towards 150,000 on Facebook.

6. Did you speak to people there, or film any interviews with them? Can you do that?

The main issue is that we didn’t speak any Korean. There were times throughout the tour, when we would ride the metro, visit the circus, partake in mass dances etc. and be face to face with regular North Koreans. But we weren’t capable of having proper conversations, so we would rely on our guides to translate. So unfortunately, our general interactions with locals was limited.
That being said, we were quite surprised to bump into a few foreign residents living in North Korea, like a family from Dubai that we spoke to at the waterpark.

7. It’s nearing 200,000 hits on YouTube, how would you gauge the response yourself?

We are very surprised by the response! This was our first ever video, without any film-making experience and without any followers or any kind of Social Media presence. We’re very happy with the reception. Although, we did reach out to numerous news outlets in Australia, and eventually it snowballed on its own and we went through a period of interviews. Generally, the commercial media manipulated our story in order to push the already established narrative about North Korea… we made a follow-up video about it here.

8. You contacted me about this a few months ago, what is your take on the situation in Donbass, which I’ve covered a lot?

I think there would be some similarities between the two. Here in Australia we are exposed to very limited news about Ukraine, and the news we do get is heavily anti-Russian. We think you do some amazing, brave work on the ground there and we have watched many of your videos as a sobering alternative to the unbalanced stories coming from Western Media here.

9. You can see the metrics of your video – where have people been watching from, have you had any offers, proposals, threats as a result?

The majority of viewers (30%) are from the U.S, which is great seeing as their country is the most involved in the crisis on the peninsula. They are followed by Australia (20%), UK (11%) and Canada (5%). We’ve had some people offer to translate it to Portuguese and Urdu, which brought in a lot of viewers from Brazil and Pakistan.

We were very happy to receive an offer from “In The Now”, which is associated with RT, so we’ll see what comes of that!

We have received some backlash on the internet, but mainly it has mainly been entertaining right-wing trolls:

“BJ Sully


10. Was it just you and Alex there? Will you keep working together, ideas for a future project?

It was just the two of us doing the trip together, although while we were in North Korea we were part of a guided tour with 15 other people. We’re still making content together and have a whole lot of ideas for future projects. We’ve been having a lot of fun putting things together and hopefully we can get a big enough audience to share it with.

Follow the guys on Facebook! 

How the Western Press Got, and Get, it So, So Wrong on Crimea (A Brief Guide)

Where to begin? Well, where they began, with the BBC blasting in March 2014 –

Why is Crimea so dangerous?

Here’s a couple of my videos from Simferopol in March of 2014, where it was less dangerous, and more just friendly, and optimistic.

And the famous, ‘little green men’, of which we’ve read so much about in western press – here, of the time, March 2014 – 

“Little green men” or “Russian invaders”?BBC

Selfskies from the frontline: People of the Crimea pose up with the masked Russian invaders – Daily Mail

The Mail headline even by western press standards a mis-step, given that even the Telegraph of the time was writing (while rather amusingly referring to the city of Sevastopol as ‘Sebastopol’ throughout) – Ukraine crisis: ‘Polite people’ leading the silent invasion of the Crimea

Patrolling the streets with the leisurely but deliberate pace of British police constables on the beat, the men with machine guns in Ukraine appear to be there to show their presence − not to fight.

And in case you’re thinking the author of that, Roland Oliphant may have been partisan or something, his subsequent work shows all the standard western media memes on Crimea in place – from March of 2014 –

March 2014 – Ukraine crisis: On Crimea’s new border the Russian Army waits

Ukraine crisis: This is the de-facto annexation of Crimea

Since 2014, there has been a deliberate, and repeated conflation in western media of the ‘little green men’, and ‘self-defence forces’, with the aim being to make out that Crimea was ‘taken’ by ‘Russian forces’, and there was no such thing as ‘self-defence forces’.

The Daily Beast, from 2017 even –


Putin’s Hidden Insurgency Tore Up Ukraine. Now It’s Coming for Your Inbox.

(Pictured, standard western portrayal of ‘little green men’ – here, BBC). 

Putin claimed ‘little green men’ in Crimea were pro-Russian locals. They were actually Russian forces laying groundwork for invasion—a playbook that’s taking over American media.

However, those of us who were here, know the difference. There were ‘little green men’, and this my GIF here, Crimea, March 2014 – 

They were clearly regular Russian troops, and with their black sea base, Russia was allowed to have 25,000 troops on Crimea. It was never a secret that these guys had been mobilised, so it’s a surprise when the west makes out it’s all surprised they’re Russian – Simon Ostrovsky of Vice, a key exponent of this. 

Yet, a couple of key points here. There were also local self-defence forces, clearly local, clearly not regular Russian military – my video here –

Both groups were perfectly approachable, filmable. And neither of them in any way played any kind of role in ‘forcing people to vote’ in 2014, as the west has led you to believe.

Ukraine crisis: David Cameron attacks Crimea vote ‘under barrel of a Kalashnikov

Britain warns Putin after ‘Kalashnikov referendum’ in Crimea

And on…

The subject of Crimean Tatars and the western press is so voluminous as to warrent its own entry, which will be. This touches on it, the Telegraph, October 2014 – 

Despair and euphoria in Crimea six months after Russian annexationDispatch: Tatars face campaign of repression after opposing annexation, while ethnic Russians rejoice at joining motherland

Other favourite themes in the western press are that building a bridge from one part of Russia to another is some sort of sinister and ominous act:

Two years after annexation, Putin seeks to bind Crimea by bridge to Russia – Reuters, 2015

Focus on the cost of the bridge, linking Russia’s mainland and Crimea:

Russia spends ‘fortune’ on bridge to Crimea –BBC, 2017

Predictions of doom –


Why Kerch May Prove a Bridge Too Far for Russia – Moscow Times, 2016

And the metaphors do go on, and on. 

A favourite new meme of the media is that someone things ‘aren’t going to plan’ with Crimea, it’s ‘not working out for Russia’, etc.

The Annexation of Crimea isn’t going as Planned – Foreign Policy, 2017 – in which there is a beyond tenuous linking of the trial of a Crimean Tatar extremist, and Crimea itself. A real stretch.

Lily Hyde: The annexation of Crimea isn’t going as planned

Another favourite, that Crimea is somehow, ‘hard to access’, is also a theme, see the BBC here, from 2017.

Do a search for flights to Crimea, from anywhere, on any search engine, see for yourself how many hundreds there are…

That Crimea is somehow ‘dangerous’, also a favourite Crimea-meme – even the UK’s official travel advice warns against visiting to Crimea and that ‘tensions remain high’…

Here we have leading New Zealand travel website – in 2017 – telling us that active war is going in Crimea,

Fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists is common in both the eastern and southeastern regions of the Ukraine, more specifically, the regions of Donetsk oblast, Luhansk oblast, and Crimea. Civilians continue to get caught up in the fighting.

No kind of war ever took place in Crimea as it rejoined Russia in 2014. I’m in Crimea just now, and don’t take my word for how calm Crimea is just now – listen to some Ukrainains here:

However, one thing’s for sure, the information war wages around, and on Crimea, and the west have chosen their weapon – lies.