Posts tagged ‘journalism’


Islamic State did not destroy things attached to people, it killed people attached to things

You can read either story. The relevant sections of the texts are both from the Associated Press. But the titles? In one newspaper, “Islamic State ‘blows up three captives tied to Roman columns’ in Palmyra”. In another, “ISIS blows up more Palmyra antiquities, with civilians attached“.

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You, a white non-Arabic-speaking non-Muslim, do not want to sneak into Islamic State territory and produce an exposé…

This is a brief post with brief advice. I’m not even going to bother to add links to evidence of this statement of the obvious. It isn’t a comment on the individuals who have contacted me because, over the past year, I have been contacted by media organisations and freelance journalists in Europe and North America. And it certainly isn’t a comment on the reporters and others who have lost their lives while trying to document and reduce people’s suffering.

You, a white non-Arabic-speaking non-Muslim, do not want to sneak into Islamic State territory in Syria or Iraq and produce an exposé. You probably won’t make it in. You almost certainly won’t make it out. It is better for the outside world not to know about antiquities trafficking or cultural destruction than it is for you to die trying to tell them. And if you do die trying to tell them, they won’t know any more about the problem anyway, because you’ll be dead.


Syria: antiquities-for-arms trade – Sky News interview

Yesterday, Sky News invited me to give a live television interview (at lunchtime today) on the illicit trade in Syrian antiquities, which was nice but a bit daunting, as I’m inarticulate at the best of times and even worse around strangers or in public. In the end, they got someone from the World Monuments Fund (WMF) to take part in a piece on the trade in (and market for) conflict antiquities from Syria – how they’re traded, who they’re bought by, etc. (so it should be good and you might catch it now or in a repeat later today).

Still, to refresh my dangerously poor memory, I’d gone back over my posts on the funding of regime and rebels through looting and smuggling, the Syrian-Lebanese antiquities-for-arms trade, and the “men with gunsin the antiquities-for-arms trade, and summarised what (I think) we know so far; and this is it.

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Syria: conflict antiquities and funding of regime and rebels through looting and smuggling

Happily, WordPress have unblocked (my access to) my blog.

As Dorothy King says of the Syrian situation, the ‘[l]oss of life [is] terrible, huge compared to looting going on’. Our primary concern must always be the human cost. Grotesquely, one of the reasons I don’t address the human cost here is that too many people are being maimed and killed too fast for me to keep track. All I can hope with any of my work on conflict antiquities is that it somehow, sometime, contributes to the re-establishment of peaceful community life.

David Meadows (@rogueclassicist), Dorothy King (@DorothyKing) and Paul Barford (@PortantIssues) have been discussing the illicit trade in antiquities amidst the Syrian civil war. Thankfully, Meadows and King debunked the Assad regime’s claims about the looting-and-smuggling of the Odyssey mosaics from Apamea. However, I fear that some of the scepticism towards allegations of rebel engagement in antiquities looting and smuggling ignores repeatedly, independently-confirmed information from non-partisan sources on the ground.

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Libyan Whispers about looting: twice the churnalists, twice the trouble

On the community journalism website AllVoices, Indian freelance writer Nina Rai has very slightly rewritten Massive Looting of Ancient Artefacts Underway in Libya as Rare Ancient Artifacts Being Looted on Large Scale in Libya: Russian Scholar.

But with twice the churnalists, there’s twice the trouble.  Rai’s version has two significant, and worrying, differences: the unreliable witness is presented as (only) an academic; and the only claimant is represented as many.

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Libya: looting claims rejected; propaganda accusations not denied

I had already blogged my distrust of the claims of an archaeological crisis in Libya: Bombing, Looting; Lobbying and Churnalism. Now, Andrew Lawler has reported ‘Claims of Mass Libyan Looting Rejected by Archaeologists‘ in Science magazine. I’ve also found a Russian TV interview with Nikolai Sologubovsky, in which he does not deny propagandising for the Gaddafi regime.

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Libya: bombing, looting; lobbying and churnalism

In the Hindu, journalist Vladimir Radyuhin has reported ‘massive looting of ancient artefacts underway in Libya’. The Hindu has also republished Radyuhin’s (very slightly reworded) news article as an op-ed (opinion) piece, warning that ‘Libyan cultural heritage [is] in danger of going the Iraqi way’.

Radyuhin’s source was ‘a Russian expert on West Asia’, ‘scholar’, ‘orientalist, writer and film maker’ Nikolai Sologubovsky, who had ‘spent several months [April-July] in Libya this year as a correspondent for a Moscow tabloid’.  (Elsewhere, Iranian Press TV journalist Svetlana Tikhomirova credited Nikolay Sologubovsky as a photographer.)

But Radyuhin’s article seems to be churnalism; and the polite word for Sologubovsky’s work would be “lobbying” (while another would be “propaganda”)…

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