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.

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.

My 3-Year Ban from Ukraine Has Now Expired: Statement

My 3-year- ban from Ukraine has now expired, and I’m legally free to enter Ukraine again.

I have no current plans to do this, the radicals and terrorists there are unlikely to pay much heed to my having served the ban, and even obeyed it – I did not once go into Ukrainian territory in this time.

However, it can’t be used to ‘discredit’ my work from Donbass any more by the BBC, other propagandists.

I am now not banned from Ukraine, and work in Donbass just like any other journalist.

Exclusive: How the UK are trying to Stop my Work: Full Story

I’ve never really blown this up before, because I generally believe in getting on with my work without fuss. However, to pre-empt anything which may be, I believe it’s time to get this in the public domain.

Brief overview: 

I was living in Odessa at the time of Euromaidan in late 2013, having previously lived 2 years in Kiev. Working as a freelance journalist, doing some English teaching to pay bills. My position on Maidan differed to other journalists due to what I’d seen in Kiev myself in my time living there. So, not receiving offers to cover Maidan, I started blogging about Euromaidan in November 2013, filmed there in January 2014, and went on from there – filming and reporting for my YouTube channel, doing occasional interviews for RT. In March of 2014, I went to Crimea to report for myself, having already travelled around all of the, then, east Ukraine.

In April, RT asked me to go to Donetsk for a week’s work. I went, continued working for them until July of 2014, after my 2nd deportation.

I went back to Donbass, of my own volition, in August of 2014, and continued working there. I accepted an offer to work, on a freelance contract with Russian channel Zvezda, in September, and worked with them until I ended our working relationship in March of 2015.

Since then, I’ve worked entirely for myself, via crowdfunding, in Donbass, Russia, across Europe, and the UK.

The UK Government, and Myself

My first contact with the UK government was after my 2nd deportation from Ukraine, in July of 2014, when I asked for their help. They flatly refused to give their help – 

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2015/09/17/when-the-uks-fco-couldnt-help-british-journalists/

Yet, in similar circumstances, they did everything they could to help BBC journalists… 

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2016/04/06/the-uks-fco-there-to-help-immediately-if-youre-the-bbc/

On the 18th February, the FCO wrote this to me: 

Dear Graham

We have been alerted to a number of social media updates that have caused some to raise questions about your presence in Ukraine in a journalistic capacity.

Particular things that have raised concerns include being photographed while wearing military uniforms, separatist insignia, or holding firearms. We are very concerned that you may be putting yourself in danger through these types of activities which could be seen as a blurring of the line between journalism and active involvement in a conflict.

I can only repeat that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to Crimea, Donetsk oblast and Lugansk oblast. We advise against all but essential travel to Kharkiv oblast. Our travel advice is available here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ukraine. As we have previously discussed with you, we recommend that British Nationals leave these areas.

Your safety, and that of other British Nationals is a priority for us. Although we are not able to provide consular services within these areas, please do not hesitate to contact us either in London or at the British Embassy in Kyiv if you require consular assistance.

Sarah Winter
Consular Directorate
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Now, this is dressed up as concern, which I took as being entirely insincere, given the refusal of the FCO to do anything to help me after my deportations.  And they key part here: photographed while wearing military uniforms, separatist insignia, or holding firearms.

You may like or not like that I’ve done, and do that, but I’ve always been quite clear about the reasons for it: military uniforms when at positions so as not to attract danger to those I’m with by wearing more visible colours. Firearms, because I was doing reportage on firing drills, and as I always do, got as close to the action as possible (within reasonable boundaries) – by joining in.

The message from the FCO was clear in any case: We don’t like what you’re doing, stop it. 

I replied, making the above points, to which the FCO didn’t reply. However, when I returned to the UK, Heathrow, on March 4th of 2015, after a near seven-month spell working in Donbass, what I believe to be a senior member of the British special services was waiting for me, and questioned me for 4 hours.

The interrogation, where I was held under the Section 7 terrorism act, was extensive, covering my working, and personal life. It was also, at times, provocative, with my being asked ‘why I was producing Russian propaganda?’, and even ‘why was I lying about events in Crimea, and Donbass?’.

The second one in particular produced a visceral response, where I defended my work: I was always on the scene, I always report the truth, with full integrity. How dare someone who has got all his information from second-hand, biased sources, accuse me, who had been there and seen for myself, of propaganda! After this, probably outburst, my interrogator momentarily chuckled, and said he ‘had to ask that’.

About my personal life, I have no secrets, and gave information already in the public domain. The same for my working life, no secrets, and I gave no information not in the public domain. My laptop was taken away for the duration of the interview, and returned to me after. It was old, and damaged, in any case I binned it shortly after. There was no confidential information on it.

I was released after 4 hours, with the special services operative making it clear that he’d been sent to do a job, even kind of apologising. It had neither been particularly stressful, or intense. It was just a bit inconvenient, my mum was waiting for me, I was already tired from speaking to the MH17 investigation for 6 hours that day.

But, ok, that was that. No one touched or bothered me in those couple of months back in the UK, and in fact I had no further contact with the FCO until I was arrested, and deported, from Latvia, in early 2016 – the powers hadn’t liked the way I’d covered a pro-Nazi demonstration there.

During my detention, I know that people called the UK FCO on my behalf. They said they were ‘aware of the situation‘, ‘doing what they could‘, etc. But they didn’t do anything to help me, and when I wrote to them after, also didn’t do anything to help me.

In September of 2016, a scandal kicked off, after some objected to the way I’d questioned Ukrainian terrorist Vladimir Zhemchugov. Judith Gough, UK ambassador to Ukraine, responded as such:

UK has no grounds to ban journalist Phillips from leaving his country – ambassador

British Ambassador to Ukraine Judith Gough has said she was appalled by the behavior of British journalist Graham Phillips during the release of Ukrainian captive Volodymyr Zhemchuhov, however the UK government has no reason to prohibit him from leaving the country.

In a statement published on the official Facebook page of the UK Embassy in Ukraine on Friday, Gough said she watched the video of the prisoner exchange and was appalled by Graham Phillips’ behavior towards Zhemchuhov.

She noted that a lot of people called on the UK to deprive Phillips of the British passport. However, the UK government does not have sufficient grounds to do this. Phillips did not commit any offenses in the UK, which could become the basis for the British government to ban him from leaving the country, Gough said. If he violated Ukrainian legislation, it is up to the Ukrainian authorities to decide on appropriate actions in relation to Phillips in Ukraine, she added.

So, that’s that. But, things have been changing recently, as the UK publicly, sharply ups its support for Ukraine, with stronger statements of support, and increased military backing, and looks to take out anything non-aligned with that position, while sending out an aggressive message – the recent imprisoning of Ben Stimson, and the updating of travel advice to Ukraine. Specifically they’ve extended the threat of punishment to those who may ‘assist those engaged in conflict’. What’s the definition of ‘assisting’? They don’t say.

And now, it seems, they’ve come for me. The BBC have been sent to do a hit piece on me, read about that here. And that would then pave the way for the UK government to take action against me, knowing that any public outcry has been allayed. It wouldn’t be ‘action against a journalist‘, they’d make it ‘action against a Russian propagandist‘, and of course, the purpose of the BBC fishing trip, was for me to state on the record that I’m ‘returning to Donbass‘. Then it’s ‘Russian propagandist banned from Ukraine as threat to state security stopped at UK border as he attempts to return‘, and most people, knowing nothing of the real facts, have no problem with that.

So, that’s the story of what’s been, with myself and the UK authorities, and I’m not only ready for what’s to come, I’m determined they’re not going to get away with it.

Oh, and just as you’ll be reading this, in UK authority, my 3-year-ban from Ukraine official ends on July 26th, by the way. You’re late, clumsy, out of shape, out of luck.