I was delighted, via the help of a contact in Kiev, to bring you this, 2-part special reportage from Kiev, looking at the new Maidan there, versus the previous! Here it is!
When Euromaidan kicked off almost exactly 4 years ago in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev, you could hardly move for western correspondents there covering it, telling us all about the heroic protesters wishing to overthrow the awful regime of Yanukovych and his government (both, democratically elected, btw) –
What happened next? Maidan and the west got their way, Yanukovych and his government were booted out, the west’s people were installed. What happened after that? Well, going on 4 years of chaos, inflation, unemployment, in Ukraine, and war in Donbass, of course. All of which the west have been a bit shy in telling you about, given it’s their guys at the wheel….
All of this has contributed to 80% of Ukrainians now being against president Poroshenko, again, something the western press are strangely reticent to report on. Actually, there’s a long list of things the west would rather you didn’t know about their new Ukraine. Such as this, on October 14th, that open neo-Nazis now brazenly march through Kiev in their thousands –
And that shortly after that, the new Maidan kicked off in Kiev, spearheaded by former Georgian president (now wanted on high-level charges there), recently of a disastrous reign as governor of Odessa, even more recently, September, simply barging over the Ukrainian border. Since that September border-barge, Saakashvili has been on a trouble-making tour of Ukraine, as he attempts to topple incumbent president Poroshenko.
All of which has left the western press in a bit of dilemma. Who to support – the western installed uber pro-west Poroshenko, or the darling of the west, wanting-to-be-western-installed Saakashvili, who has even gone to far as to be sleeping in the tents on the new Maidan. All of which would surely be screaming for sympathetic western media coverage. Yet, Saakashvili is going up against their man. So he’s out of luck. No fawning western coverage this time, no glorious new Maidan for him. Almost no western press coverage at all.
This has left Saakashvili rather pathetically pleading with the Ukrainian people to protect him against Poroshenko’s apparent wish to deport him back to Georgia. Meanwhile, Ukrainian ultra-nationalists storming and attempting to occupy a court in Kiev similarly find themselves out of luck – the west only supported that in Ukraine in 2013, guys. Now, the west supports Poroshenko, who seemingly entirely without irony, or memory, is attempting to deport the tent-dwelling Saakashvili for his attempt in an ‘illegal overthrow of government’.
Post-Euromaidan Ukraine is certainly never boring. Not so much a car crash, as a neverending demolition derby.
All of the propaganda about Crimea this summer, and yet how was it, really? Here, the words of Ukrainians, on holiday in Crimea, Russia:
Here, a ‘pro-Ukraine’ lady, from Kiev, on holiday in Crimea, gives her view:
Here, ladies from Kharkov:
The words of real people, real Ukrainians, versus the wall of western, Ukrainian propaganda…
What was Kiev like pre-Euromaidan? I lived there myself for 2 years, worked at a magazine in the city, knew the city well:
It was a good place to live, had cleaned its act up in the run up to Euro 2012, along with all the new infrastructure that had gone with that. Fancy hotels were opening, I even reviewed one on a gig, investment was rising. Things were fine.
What’s happened to Ukraine, post-Euromaidan? Economic collapse, national debt is rising, corruption is rising, corruption is institutionalised, Ukraine has become kind of a dumping-ground for ex-jihadists, can’t even get Ryanair to fly into it, economy run by ‘economic hitmen‘, has become either one of, or even the poorest country in Europe, health system in crisis, an unreformed penal system, a tuberculosis epidemic…
There are things like the ongoing farce with Saakashvili. He’s the governor of Odessa Poroshenko ally, then he’s not. Then he’s an opposition leader. Then he’s had his Ukrainian passport revoked. Then he’s in the USA telling everyone about how awful Ukraine is (but, Russia is ‘worse’, of course). Then he’s in Poland saying he’ll come and rescue Ukraine… it goes on, and on ….
And to add to that, Ukraine’s capital Kiev has now plunged into one of the 10 Least Liveable Cities in the World – Economist Intelligence Unit finds –
10. Kiev, Ukraine — 47.8/100 points. The capital of Kiev saw the biggest decline in terms of liveability — 21.4 points — of all 140 cities surveyed. It is the also the only European city in the 12 that scored below 50 points. The city is still in a recovery that remains under threat from unrest, economic instability, and the ongoing civil war taking place in the Donbass region.
Occupying the next places, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe. What does the UK’s LGBT-obsessed ambassador Judith Gough have to say to this? It’s hard to agree – I see that Kiev is getting better, not worse!
In diplomatic world, as ever, bad = good where Ukraine is concerned….
The UK has had a particularly poor record with recent ambassadors to Ukraine. Simon Smith, in position between 2012 and 15, showed little real interest in the position, and his contribution amounted to little more than mouthing along with, and retweeting handed-down rhetoric:
Smith’s farewell tweet in September of 2015 gathered a paltry 25 retweets as he slipped out of position, just as he’d generally slipped under the radar in his weak, prematurely ended tenure –
Smith, who had clearly just been punching his timecard, was replaced by Judith Gough, (Wikipedia): born 1972, educated at the University of Nottingham (BA German and Russian, 1995) and at King’s College London (MA War in Modern World, 2012). She then worked as a Consultant in Emerging Markets and Financial Services at Ernst and Young.
Gough joined the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2001. Gough then served at the British embassy in South Korea. Starting from mid-September 2010 she was Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Republic of Georgia, and served as such till she was released of her post early 2013.
In September 2015 Gough was appointed Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine.
Gough is openly lesbian and raises two children with her partner, Julia Kleiousi.
Gough began her tenure, in September 2015, with a tweet clearly meant to show that a stronger, more forceful player was in town:
And she’s continued in that vein. Endless tweets, retweets (as here) about Crimea, how it’s ‘Ukraine’ and everything there is ‘worsening’ etc etc – despite making no effort herself to ever actually visit Crimea, which she freely could.
Of course, the retweets about Boris Johnson and his parroting of ‘Russian aggression’ –
Endless tweets about the ‘heroism of Maidan’ –
And Gough loudly trumpets UK and Ukrainian military cooperation, tweeting this out last month –
Gough is indeed very hawkish about UK / Ukraine military cooperation, and the UK’s recent pledge to increase that, tweeting on at every opportunity.
What Judith doesn’t tweet:
Anything about Ukraine’s ongoing shelling of civilian areas of Donbass
Anything about the general disorder in Ukraine, actions of the far-right, radicals, and so on. About this recently in Lvov, for example: Vandals Caught On Video Drawing Swastikas On Ukraine Holocaust Memorial
Nothing about that on Judith’s feed. And while the Campaign for the Protection of Journalists was writing criticising Ukraine for the lack of any result in the investigation into the murder of Pavel Sheremet, on July 12th, Judith was tweeting:
Gough, perhaps predictably, tweets lots about reform. Yet, it’s clear that neither ‘reform’ in Ukraine, nor recycling of endless anti-Russian propaganda is what really interests the 44-year-old is a theme closer to home. Judith clearly sees herself, as the UK’s first openly gay international diplomat, as a crusading figure for openly gay people in senior positions, a perception perpetuated by puff pieces such as this March 2016, adoring interview by Buzzfeed.
All of which would be fine, and wonderful, if Judith were doing a good job, which she’s not. At best, she’s just passing on UK propaganda. But worse, her aggressive tweets of stepped up UK military intervention push peace further from the agenda. And more’s the argument that Gough’s sexuality is perhaps not paramount in her position as ambassador to a country locked in ongoing civil war. Yet, since June 1st, Judith has tweeted, retweeted, over 15 times about issues relating to LGBT, but only 3 about Donbass….
Putting her LGBT activism to one side, looking through Gough’s Twitter, it’s clear that she’s fallen victim to the standard ambassadorial pitfall – virtue signalling charity events at the ambassador’s residence, in Kiev, from July 19th –
In fairness to Gough, in June she did actually visit Kramatorsk, Donbass, yet there’s no indication she spoke to anyone there, other than the inevitable NGO’s –
Before publishing this, I had a final look at Gough’s Twitter feed. Her last tweet was 2 days ago, a retweet:
Gough’s homosexuality and accent on that may actually be a blessing, as her focus on LGBT activism at least limits the harm she is doing in her position as UK ambassador to Ukraine. Yet when history is written, it’s hard to believe that even the LGBT community will review Gough kindly.
I’ve wrapped the Brexit reportage project, and have spent this last week travelling around the Netherlands, working on MH17, and more. More on that to come soon. For now…
With the inevitability of Ignatius from Confederacy of Dunces casting up Fortuna, the BBC’s useful idiot Daniel Sandford likes to cast things up which supposedly indicate my ‘connection to Russia’ etc. Back in March, as I was deported from Latvia, Dan was suspicious about my ‘multi-entry visa’ from Russia.
Well, that one has expired now in any case, and, after application I received a new Russian, multi-entry visa, last week. So I’d like to tell you quickly, it’s neither suspicious as Sandford makes out, or like this, as a Twitter wag conjectured:
Getting a tourist visa to visit Russia is simple for anyone. Getting a multi-entry, one-year visa which allows you to work is a more involved process, and without the right know-how, it can even be rather complicated. Last year in London in March of 2015, back from near 7 months in Donbass, I set about making my first application for a multi-entry Russian visa.
Before this, I’d only had tourist visas for Russia, my trips there in 2009, 2011, and 2014, well that was a bit different. July 2014 saw me deported from Ukraine after being captured by Ukrainian forces while covering war at Donestk airport. They detained me for 3 days, then deported me into Poland, for some reason, banning me for 3 years for my work supposedly ‘supporting terrorism’ – i.e. telling the side of the war in Donbass they didn’t want to be told.
RT then immediately called from all sides telling me they wanted to ‘fly me to Moscow‘ etc etc. But that turned out to be false, or they were even just lying to me. All RT wanted to do was keep me onside with them to record an interview about my release, for which they booked a tv studio in Warsaw and made a huge deal of.
Then, after that, despite knowing I was left Poland, car, along with many of my belongings stolen by Ukrainian forces, little money it was ‘goodbye Graham, we won’t be needing you any more.’ They not only withdrew all visa support, they let the Russian embassy in Poland know about this, and they promptly refused to give me any visa at all.
So it was, cut off, hung out to dry in Warsaw, I made the call – got on the next flight to London, got a one-entry tourist visa, in one day, next flight to Moscow, down to Rostov, and crossed over into Lugansk (photo, arriving in an abandoned city, booming with shelling), at that time under blockade, going on to spend the next near 7 months in Donbass, ultimately making an exceptional application to Russia to let me leave via Russia, as clearly Ukraine was no longer an option, I was banned from there, and death threats emanating from there ever-growing.
So it was, I left in March 2015, was back in London looking to get a new multi-entry visa so I could return to work in Donbass, entering through Ukraine clearly now not an option as per the above. In the first place, I didn’t exactly know where to begin, all those who’d so confidently said ‘we’ll help you out‘ suddenly rather slower to reply to messages.
Anyway, I googled, explored all the options, and couldn’t really find a way how a freelance journalist, not contracted to any company, could get a multi-entry, one year visa for Russia. It was rather a strange situation, people from a Russia which appreciated me as the ‘western journalist telling the truth about Donbass‘, or even just not be a Russophobe, as is the standard for most western journalists writing on Russia – Luke Harding, the above Daniel Sandford, and on – kept writing to me expressing gratitude and invitations to Russia.
In this time also, March to April of 2015 in London, Russian media kept calling me, asking me for Skype interviews and so on, which sometimes I did, others not. But, the truth behind it all was that all of March I had no idea how I’d get a Russian visa to even return. Well, in March, April, I started casting the net out. Of course, it wasn’t all visa application, this photo from a day out at one of my favourite places to visit in London, Greenwich.
In April of 2015, I eventually found a contact in Russia, Sergey, who ran a news agency which had used several of my videos in the past. From early Facebook forays, Sergey indicated he may be able to help. And, unlike so many others, followed up on this with a letter, and documentation supporting my application for a Russian multi-entry visa, to work as a freelance, independent journalist.
However, in the first place, my multi-entry one year visa application didn’t quite go through, and I was instead given a three-month, double-entry visa. So, in May of 2015, I embarked on that for a then near-3 month working trip to Donbass, by this time already simply working for myself, via crowdfunding, earnings from YouTube.
In this time, Sergey went to bat for me again, and in July of 2015, I left Donbass to go to Helsinki (pictured) to apply for what would be my first multi-entry Russian visa. Why Finland? Well, it couldn’t be Russia, Helsinki was easy to fly to, and there it was where I waited a few nice, slightly boring if I’m being honest, days while my application went through.
Go through it did, first multi-entry visa for Russia issued, and in August of 2015 I was off to do my Crimea project of that year, then staying working in Donbass, and Russia, until late May of 2016. I was then back in the UK until leaving last week to start work on my MH17 documentary (more on that soon), and, like last time, applied for another multi-entry Russian visa, with Sergey’s support. Still, filled out all the paperwork, as last time, paid the visa fees, as last time, but, a bit easier this time, it all went through ok, and last week I was issued with a multi-entry, one year visa for Russia.
So, what to say about applying for a Russian visa – there’s a process to go through, and it’s not necessarily the easiest, in terms of you do need pretty concrete documentation. However, it’s certainly both do-able, and possible, and the embassy, visa centre have in my experience always been professional. There are various agencies online who say they they can provide this, but, I don’t know about that or them enough to advise. Also of course, if you work for a company, teaching English etc, they’ll sort this out.
Getting a visa, which allows you to work, for a year is a pretty big deal, for any country. I’d advise in the first instance, visiting Russia on a tourist visa, and making enough connections to allow for those whose pledges of assistance will not quite stand up to requests for that to really happen. I could end this with a screenshot of the chap whose firm assurances of assistance subsequently gave way to ‘write to Ramzan Kadyrov on Facebook’.
But, I’ll simply say this, it should never have been necessary for me to get a Russian visa to work in Donbass. If Ukraine were a normal country, I’d still be able to go there to work, travel to Donbass through Ukraine, and would certainly do so. If I were a BBC journalist, be sure the FCO would have stood up for me when deported, rather than pretended they didn’t even know me.
Here’s the truth about Ukraine – any journalist working there is only doing so because they dutifully pump out the Kiev line. And for the rest of us? Well, I’m grateful that Russia, where I’ll also be doing reportage, is a country which allows independent journalism, enables it by giving visas, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to work over there.
Useful links –
Visa policy of Russia –
VFS – Russian Visa Application Centre –
An example of Russian visa support site –
Sometimes the question comes up ‘how did you go from working for tv channels, to working through crowdfunding?’ So, here we go. In the past few days, I’ve got a few things off my chest, particularly in relation to the channel RT, for whom I started working as a tv correspondent, over 2 years ago, in Donbass.
Why did I, from Great Britain, go to work for Russian media? Well, Euromaidan (pictured) saw the shattering of all my, what turned out to be, illusions about media. When you’ve stood on a street and witnessed chaos, mess, terrorism, yet see it on BBC, CNN, depicted as a ‘revolution of dignity’ etc, masks slip pretty quickly.
There are no objective news channels at all. Every channel has an angle, agenda.
It so happened, that on Euromaidan, Crimea, and Donbass, the angle, agenda of the Russian channels was much more truthful than that of the western media. Not completely objective, no, but no media is. We live in an age where every channel or newspaper is owned, either overtly or not, by corporations, businesses, states. BBC, for example, governed by a BBC Trust comprising several members with connections to big business, including Roger Carr, chairman of defence contractor BAE systems, with lucrative arms contracts across the
world. The famously ‘independent’ Guardian, owned by the Guardian Media Group, with its famously secret ‘externally managed investment fund’.
RT, famously owned by the Russian state. So, what’s it like working for them, what are the terms? They offered me $300 a day to to a week’s work reporting in Donetsk back when things were kicking off there in April 2014. That may sound like a reasonable amount, but you have to stay somewhere, it was hotels back then, and, when it got to Slavyansk, my agreement with RT extending beyond a week, but not every day, it was necessary to get a fixer too. I had to take care of all of this, and getting expenses back was always a struggle, on not one occasion finding myself questioned about receipts for taxi fares for a few pounds.
Also, it’s hard work. When you are on a day’s shift, you are ‘on call’, and RT called, all the time. There would be several producers on shift at any time, and it seemed to be the thing to do to regularly call correspondents. I found this initially frustrating going up to really pretty irritating, as here –
– as I was always running about trying to film things, the phone would frequently be going off during this. But then, new to it all, perhaps I’d simply misread the role of correspondent for a channel. I wanted, in an erupting war situation as it was, with things flaring up all over the place, literally all the time, to be chasing
all the stories, filming all the action. RT mostly wanted me to be in the quiet centre of Slavyansk doing link ups to satellite camera. I didn’t see the point of this, standing in a calm street while things were flaring up all around.
Then, RT would want to send me places, having ‘hot tips’ of action somewhere. Sometimes they were hot tips, other times stone cold. They were a bit obsessed at the time with all sorts of things supposedly going on in Izyum, so kept sending me there, to no real result, but in fairness got it bang on with the Lugansk uprisings of the end of April (pictured).
Now, I’ve written about not wanting anything to do with RT, not liking working for the channel, and that’s true. But I don’t echo the sentiments of other former RT correspondents out of terms with the channel in respect of being told what to say, report etc. I had a free reign, would record and report what I saw. There would be times when RT wouldn’t use all the material I’d send them, or may select parts for edit, but in any case I’d upload all the material onto my YouTube channel, they knew I did that, there were no restrictions on that. RT did, on occasion, tell me about preferred terminology, but I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to that, and it was never an issue.
I would say this – it was hard work. When RT knew you were on a working day, they knew you were on a working day. There were times I’d get back to the hotel after being on my feet filming the whole day, shattered. Then there’d be a call ‘we
need you to do a Skype interview’. I’d do the Skype interview, be preparing to hit the hay, another call, another, and so on. Other times, called out on the street late at night for a satellite link up. But again, this isn’t a beef, being a correspondent on the ground when the ground is as active as it was in Donbass back then, is always going to be hard work, and there’s an adrenalin which powers you through.
The reason for my discord with RT is simply, when I’d do a story which got some heat, it was all ‘RT’s Graham Phillips’ and so, but when I was ever in a position of needing RT’s support, on the field, they would as a first option, throw me under the bus.
My employment with RT ended after my 2nd deportation from Ukraine, in July of 2014. Now, I fully accept they’d told me not to go to Donetsk airport during battle, but I went, got taken captive, many of my possessions, including car, stolen by Ukrainian forces. I got released, deported into Poland, called by as it seemed everyone at RT, congratulating me on release, saying they’d fly me to Moscow etc, they went huge about it on air, booking me into a studio in Warsaw for a special feature. And after that, literally, dumped me there. There was a meeting, where it was decided I’d ‘reached the end of my useful life‘, and that was that. No Moscow, no visa support, nothing. They’d gone so big on my having had my car and money stolen, huge features about it on air, but no compensation for that. They knew I couldn’t return to the home I’d left to report for them, in Odessa, now banned from Ukraine. Again, nothing. I’m pictured here in Warsaw, just, taking it all in, wondering what to do next. And more, I didn’t at all feel at the ‘end of my useful life’, felt I was just starting.
In my return to Donbass, after doing some work for RT during the World Cup 2014, I’d negotiated a higher rate of pay, $500 a day, but only got 3 days of that in the end. So, all told, taking into account the loss of my car, equipment etc, my RT career ended with my actually having perhaps broken even, if you don’t take into account the apartment I’d effectively lost. If you do, well, I’d certainly have been much better off materially just staying at home!
But I’d never been about money. The big money was always in western media. I knew guys who’d sit in Kiev, crack out columns on Donbass for Newsweek, New Statesman etc at a couple of thousand dollars a pop. Russian media simply doesn’t offer that. I’d gone with that option because it gave me the chance to report things as I saw them.
Anyway, deported by Ukraine, dumped by RT, I saw in Warsaw in early August of 2014 wondering what to do, sure neither what, nor how to do it. The idea of doing a crowdfunder to continue reportage from Donbass just didn’t occur to me at that time – crowdfunding was still fairly new. I figured just get back there, to Donbass, and take it from there. I decided on Lugansk, and needed to hurry, with the city further under siege each day and access nigh-on impossible. I returned from Poland, rushed to the visa embassy in London, got a tourist visa for Russia, took off for Moscow, headed down to Rostov, and found someone who got me in to the city of Lugansk, at that time cut off, under relentless Ukrainian shelling, no power, water, phone signal and the one internet connection in the city provided by the other Russian channel there, Life News. There were no other western journalists, in fact hardly any journalists, and I spent the next month filming as much as possible and, without a channel, submitting my videos to agency.
Working as a video journalist is just about as precarious a profession as it gets. There, there is – as is the nature of the trade – absolutely no loyalty, it’s simply who’s got the hottest video. So to make a living, you have to be in the hottest place a lot of times and your competition is anyone with a cameraphone! So, it’s tough, but at that time in Lugansk there was (sadly) enough action to mean that my work was taken up almost every day.
(August 22nd 2014)
However, I’ve never seen myself purely as a video journalist, enjoying filming but also being an ‘on camera’ correspondent, so was looking for offers from a channel. In September 2014, the Russian channel Zvezda approached me to work
for them. Now, I knew they reported into the Russian Military of Defence, but, was assured all my work would be presented as it was, no directives etc.
So it was, I started work for Zvezda, filming my reports on YouTube, sending them to the channel. And I have to say, working for them was actually far smoother than RT – almost no calls, or Skypes. I’d just film my report, send it off, and if they took it, I’d negotiated 500 Euros, an excellent rate (although I needed to pay a camerman to film my stand-ups from that), but there would sometimes be a couple of weeks and more when they wouldn’t take anything.
Did I like the Zvezda edit of my pieces? Well, I spoke English, and they dubbed it into Russian. I wasn’t always totally enamoured with how the pieces came out, but then anyone who makes material, and hands it over for edit, will feel the same. The Russian angle, agenda in the Zvezda pieces was a bit more overt, as is the nature of the channel, and ultimately that resulted in my decision to cut ties with the channel, in February of 2015.
And, after that, I found myself at an impasse of a crossroads. I’d now become known for my work in Donbass as working with Russian media, and had seen the impact that had in the west. The result was the west immediately discounting my work ‘don’t listen to Graham, he works for Russian media‘, ‘Russian propagandist‘ etc. When you put your life on the line, and I got wounded while working in November of 2014, to deliver the truth, it’s of course far from gratifying when there’s a palpable barrier put up to that getting over to a wider audience. Of course there are a lot of people who want it that way, have made up any number of nonsense stories and claims about me in attempts to discredit my work – I’m a ‘Russian agent, British agent, sex tourist, gay’... it goes on.
Anyway, post Zvezda, I made the call to go it alone. I had offers to work with Vice News, but couldn’t associate myself with a channel who I felt had been entirely dishonest in their coverage of Crimea, Donbass. The BBC contacted me several times, but, after their coverage of Euromaidan, Crimea, Donbass, BBC News exists to me only as a propaganda agency I want nothing to do with.
So, I got by last year on earnings from Zvezda, my YouTube channel, and sponsors. As for the latter, people see a lot of hits, my channel is near 50 million now, and equate that with serious coin. But it’s not quite like that. A thousand hits in much of Europe, the US, can bring in about $4, quite reasonable. If those are in Russia, where rates are far lower for advertising, it’s only 0.40 cents, if Ukraine 0.20 cents. So, in the early days, when the eyes of the west were on Ukraine, and Donbass, it did generate a decent amount. But since late 2014, the audience has been mainly Russian, from Donbass, or Ukraine so, the hits may still be high, but the sum can be a few dollars.
I did my first crowdfunder, in April of 2015, to fund a drone, it seemed to capture people’s imaginations, went very well. And in September of the year I set up a Patreon account, donations on that, a little less than $200 a month, significant to my work. That, along with donations to my Paypal account, and fairly modest expenses while working in Donbass, Crimea have allowed me to get by.
Coming back to the UK a couple of weeks ago has been a shock in a lot of ways. When I last returned in 2015, Donbass did have some resonance here, but, sadly, that’s entirely gone now, it seems like a different world. Then there’s London, it changes so much every time that it’s not just buildings which are different, it’s entire streets. New trends, atmosphere, it’s coming back to a city which moved so quickly it didn’t miss a beat when you left, reintegrating. And realising, this is the real world – for me, my world. You can go away and be a ‘big man’ somewhere else, taking a position against your own country’s government as I have, with my work having resonated in Donbass, and Russia (though I’d like to think not just because of that, but due to the quality of reportage, my having worked very hard – over 4000 videos on my channel), but if you’re unknown in your own backyard, there’s a discord.
Of course, being known personally is not what it’s about. I’d like people to see the reportage, know the truth. It’s hard to have friends back in Donbass, suffering under a war situation ongoing because, in large part, the west has switched off allowing the predicament there to perpetuate. But of course, as a correspondent, there are a lot of things interesting to me, which I want to report on. And there’s a bonus in doing so, that if I can win a new audience through work which resonates in the west, I can hopefully take them to know the truth about Donbass.
But how to do it, when both roads are closed, for the above reasons, to Russian, and to western channels? Well, I have go it myself, via crowdfunding.
Set up a project, find people to support it, finance it, make it happen. This is my new project, UK referendum reportage – currently at 25% of the funding target –
So how does this compare to being a channel’s correspondent? Well, there are extra stresses – having to raise finance, of course, is stressful. Despite the perception with crowdfunding that you put a project up, and that’s it, it flies, crowdfunding is actually, usually, a fight to get financing. After my first, lucky, drone project, I did a Baltics one which ended up well under target. And this latest one similarly, tough. There are no incredibly wealthy benefactors who with the click of a moneyed finger, make the whole project happen. There are normal people, pledging mostly 10 and 20 pounds. And, in the real world, to make a project even with minimal costs happen, you need a lot of that.
However, on the other side, if it happens, the result can be, simply, the ultimate correspondent’s dream. Freedom to report everything, exactly as it is, not beholden to any one or organisation. Knowing that people support you, support your work, it’s a wonderful feeling. The potential to make a unique project happen because of that.
It’s still new though, the idea of a crowdfunded correspondent. I sometimes ask myself how it came to this, because in some ways, you are alone, everything stands or falls on you. But in another way, it’s the best thing of all, no one calling you, telling you what to do, where to go. I hope to build a career on the unique opportunity that crowdfunding gives. Of course, I can only do that if people support me, and people will only support me if the work deserves it. There’s no safety net, it’s live or die.
Be sure, I’ll give it my all to realise this incredible opportunity. People pledging to me now are fairly low in number, but huge in significance. To make it happen long-term, I’ll need more people to see the worth in true, independent reportage. That could even be you, reading this. If so, be sure, from my side, your pledge to me will be met with a pledge from me to turn your support into reportage which can change the world.