A portrait of journalism in crisis

It doesn’t take long for the press photographer wearing dark sunglasses and a Covid face mask to finish capturing the scene around him. Once he’s done, he begins to walk away from the crowd. His head is tilted as he walks. The demonstrators, meanwhile, continue to chant in unison around him. Order seems about to crumble when the sound of an unseen and terrifying boom adds threat to chaos and cacophony.

As the sirens wail, the photographer turns around and takes the camera off his shoulder. He brings it to eye level. Snap, snap, snap.

The sirens howl in the distance. The police brandish long guns across their chests.

The photographer captures all of this, in a burst of images. Snap, snap, snap.

Protesters plead not to be shot. The jerky howl of the sirens is relentless. And then a strong crrrrack. The hiss of tear gas. The photographer moves with precision and determination along the edges of the scene. Snap, snap, snap.

Miami Herald photojournalist Carl Juste gets back in his car. Immediately, his phone rings. An editor.

“Uh, do you have anything? If you could send just one that would be great.

Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, working with executive producer Ronan Farrow, included this scene – from Just, covering a Black Lives Matter protest after the murder of George Floyd – at the start of their new documentary “Endangered”. A sobering and uplifting account of the press in peril around the world, their theatrical debut on HBO Max later this month (June 28), just weeks after its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

What’s so striking about the scene that day in Miami, where Juste practices his testimonial work, is how seamlessly he blends in with others “Endangered” features from around the world. Journalists in countries like Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro is shown at a public event using vulgar and sexist language to dismiss a troublesome journalist’s report.

And in places like Mexico City, where a photojournalist like Sashenka Gutierrez works in a profession whose members are too often killed there.

In the case of Juste, in Miami, the city’s cops later begin to respond aggressively to the press covering similar protests and rallies. “Anger is boiling over again,” reads the headline of the Miami Herald, above one of Just’s photographs – depicting a small group of police officers in silhouette, one of them holding a gun that would not seem moved on a battlefield.

When the George Floyd protests began, Ewing told me in an interview, the Committee to Protect Journalists “was getting hundreds of calls a day, about safety protocols — from American journalists! In the USA! This had never happened before. So just as we were riding, it came home, big time.

The ‘this’ being assaults, harassment, roadblocks, physical security threats, online vitriol – anything, really, that is meant to make a journalist’s job harder and deter them from asking accounts in power.

“Endangered” begins with footage from a pro-Bolsonaro rally in Sao Paulo. Brandishing a megaphone, a hype for the Brazilian president, a friend of Trump, sends the crowd into frenzied roars of approval. “We must destroy the mainstream media! Someone has to.

“These journalists are criminals! These people must be exterminated!

Journalist Patricia Campos Mello was in the crowd that day. The “in danger” filmmakers had already struck up a conversation with her early on about the story they wanted to tell – which, by the way, predated the Covid pandemic.

Ewing and Grady had been developing the idea for this project with Farrow for about a year. And then Covid hit, quickly highlighting the imperative of a documentary project like this.

All of a sudden, Ewing told me, “all these world leaders were put in a place where, you know, they weren’t able to control the narrative. And the narrative was very, very bad. So there was more aggression towards the press and the people bringing this bad news – but the gist, and the real news… It didn’t sit well with them.”

There is, furthermore, a straight narrative line from footage of Bolsonaro insisting that Mello was trading sexual favors in order to find dirt on him – a lie millions of his followers would believe, as he was dating. straight from the president’s mouth after all – for more crackdowns on journalism and reporters around the world. In extreme cases, some of these journalists have died, such as Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi, murdered by a commando under the auspices of the Saudi regime; and, in recent days, a British freelance journalist killed in a remote Amazon region of Brazil.

“Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist,” Gutierrez said at one point in “Endangered.” “Many of my colleagues have disappeared or been killed.”

This year, in fact, has been particularly deadly in Mexico for members of the profession. For reporters like José Luis Gamboa in Veracruz, and Margarito Martínez and Lourdes Maldonado in Tijuana.

Gamboa – who founded and edits several news websites, in addition to posting information on his Facebook page – was stabbed to death in mid-January. Also this year, Martínez, a 49-year-old photojournalist who covered police and crime, was shot dead outside his home in Tijuana. Maldonado, who had written for several major Mexican media outlets, was also found outside her home, shot dead in her car.

Elsewhere in ‘Endangered’, meanwhile, reporters are shown being pressured by hospital chiefs to report rosy Covid data. In other words, the film takes viewers behind the scenes to see up close the wide range of obstacles journalists face on a daily basis – readers who insist on consuming an information product that only conforms to their worldview. , to the politicians who militarize their pulpit of intimidation.

And to the killers who, when all else fails, target unafraid journalists.

“Over the years, with these slogans that have popped up as ‘fake news’…I really hope people realize that (the press) isn’t one big monolith,” Grady told me. “That these are people who have families and who do this work for all kinds of reasons. Every article you read, every picture you look at – there was a tremendous amount of work going on behind it.

“They are individuals, they do a very hard job…and I hope this movie will remind people what’s behind that signature.”

#portrait #journalism #crisis

Post expires at 3:12pm on Thursday June 30th, 2022