Last Friday I went to an author seminar at the Central Library, featuring Lynsey Addario, an "American photojournalist whose work appears regularly in The New York Times, National Geographic and Time magazine. She has covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur and the Congo, and has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Genius Grant and the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting." (Quote from events.spl.org)
She was showing photos and telling stories from her book It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War, including the horrifying details of her kidnapping by pro-Qaddafi forces in the Libyan civil war.
The take-home message was crystal clear: it's absolutely instrumental that journalists and photographers are able to travel to the front lines, wherever they may be, and report back to the rest of the us what they see. What they see with their own eyes, document with their cameras and learn from people they meet. Simply relying on information that is "graciously" given by governments who rule through absolute authority is not good enough; we need first-hand testimonies. People's lives depend on it.
If you agree with Lynsey and me (and you should) I would ask you to visit Blank Spot Project, a crowdfunding campaign initiated by Martin Schibbye, a Swedish journalist who was arrested in Ethiopia in 2011 together with the photographer Johan Persson, as they were documenting the ongoing conflict in the Ogaden region. The two of them were sentenced to 11 years of prison for alleged "terrorist crimes", but were pardoned and released after 14 months.
Read about the project; or better yet, support it. Every USD and SEK and EUR and WCYF (whatever currency you fancy) counts. Seriously, instead of going to see a crappy movie (Lex Taken), use those 15-ish dollars (or more!) to support these devoted, brave professionals who risk their lives to tell us true stories from the world's battlegrounds.
Go on, make a difference.