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Braving Bullets And Death To Write The First Draft Of History

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When everyone else is running away from danger, war reporters hurl their cameras and microphones in the opposite direction to ‘get the story’. Paula Slier, the writer of this piece, is one of them.

War reporting is more a calling than a profession. Why else would an otherwise sane adult throw himself or herself in harm’s way? When everyone else is running away from danger, these men and women are hurling their cameras and microphones in the opposite direction to ‘get the story’. 

This year alone, 19 journalists have been killed in the field. It begs the question if the job is worth the risk? Especially in the age of Twitter, virtual reality and 360 cameras, can – and will – technology replace human coverage on the battlefield?

Wars today make no distinction between combatants and journalists. Long gone are the days that the reporter was perceived as a ‘neutral observer’. Today, increasingly, the media is seen as a legitimate-target in the so-called ‘information war’ that can be as important – if not more – in the fight for public perception, than the battle itself.

During the bloodiest days of the not-so-long-ago Russia-Ukraine conflict, I reported from the frontlines alongside pro-Russia fighters.

I wore a bullet-proof jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned across it. Instead of offering me some degree of protection as one would expect, the soldiers asked me to remove the jacket as they believed the Ukrainian military would deliberately target me because I was a journalist. I was thus making it unsafe for them too.

Award-winning Italian war reporter, Fausto Biloslavo, has covered most of the conflicts of the last 35 years. He believes this shift in how journalists are viewed came about after ‘September 11’.

“Insurgents no longer considered us witnesses to be respected but cannon fodder for propaganda or ransom. Nowadays, in any war, they always think that you are a spy and not a real journalist,” he says.

It doesn’t help that wars themselves have become more difficult to cover. The rise of non-state actors like paramilitary and terror groups means that, for years, swathes of Syria and Iraq were off-limits to reporters.

The only way a journalist could reach there was by being ‘embedded’ – attached – to an army unit. No wonder then that we are seen by some groups as unobjective and pushing a particular view. It is very hard to travel with the Kurdish army, like I did in northern Iraq, and be perceived by those fighting the Kurds as neutral.

Amitabh Revi, associate editor of Strategic News International, a niche Indian online news service, has had his fair share of warzones. He believes that some wars are simply too dangerous to cover.

“It’s always a calculated risk. When I ask myself why I do it, it’s to be the eyes and ears for those who can’t be there and frankly, just to be there myself. Social media and citizen reporting are important, but for sustained, comprehensive coverage, one still needs a professional.”

Small-sized digital equipment has seen the rise of the so-called ‘accidental journalist’. These often young, unqualified reporters venture into danger zones and take risks that their more seasoned colleagues never would. The trend became so prevalent that major news organizations took the unprecedented step of announcing they would not buy footage from freelancers reporting in areas they deemed too dangerous to send their own staff reporters to.

Biloslavo has lost five close friends to conflict.

The first was Almerigo Grilz, a kind of older brother to him. He was killed on May 19, 1987, in Mozambique. filming a battle between Renamo rebels and Frelimo government troops. Grilz made the mistake to move slightly from behind the protection of a termite mound to film the rebel retreat and was likely shot in the neck by a sniper.

“Almost always a journalist dies because he has made a mistake, small or big, conscious or not, as he travels along a dangerous road, photographing a tank around a corner or trusting the local population too much,” believes Biloslavo. And all the training in the world cannot prepare one for that moment. Often it’s instinct that kicks in at the last moment, especially when one must make that critical decision to move forward, stay put, or pull back.


“No article is worth the price of life, but someone has to go and report about wars, the dark side of humanity.

– Fausto Biloslavo

“It’s to be the eyes and ears for those who can’t be there and frankly, just to be there myself.

– Amitabh Revi

But despite all the risks, Biloslavo has no intention of laying down his microphone for good.

“I’ll only stop taking risks when I can no longer bear the weight of the bullet-proof jacket, the helmet, the backpack and am unable to run halfway through the whistle of the bullets,” he says.

“No article is worth the price of life, but someone has to go and report about wars, the dark side of humanity. This means accepting the risks of being killed, injured or kidnapped.”

For Revi, he’ll only stop reporting when wars stop, which implies never.

“The most dangerous situation I was in was during a so-called ‘double tap’ attack in Afghanistan,” he reflects. “The idea (of the perpetrators) is to kill the first responders – medical, security forces and journalists who rush to an attack. Instinct kept me away from the second of the two blasts. So, in short, one needs loads of luck.”

But what happens when that luck runs out? Sometimes, war reporting can feel like a ticking bomb. I narrowly missed a suicide bombing at the entrance to my hotel in Afghanistan. For three weeks, I had met the crew at the same spot every day at 9AM. On the day of the explosion, we had an early interview and left some 15 minutes before the bomb detonated – at the entrance, exactly at 9AM.  

A mixture of faith and fate keeps me going. Faith in the importance of what I’m doing – writing the first draft of history – and fate that when my time comes, it’ll come, but not a second before.

As the US author, Horace Greeley, wrote: “Journalism may kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.”

– Paula Slier

Health

[BREAKING] Coronavirus Update: Global COVID-19 cases pass one million

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While most cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. , Europe, and China, the virus is spreading rapidly across the African continent.

The confirmed worldwide cases for the virus have surpassed a million with the current figure being at 1,005,858.

The increase in new reported cases around the world has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the coronavirus a global pandemic.

The death toll continues to rise globally, and is currently at 51,644.

Italy leads with 13,915. Spain is second with 10,096 . The U.S. is third with 5,768. France is fourth with 4,503, and China, where the virus originated from, is fifth with 3,318.

The figure of the global recoveries stands at 210,577.

Here are the numbers in Africa:

Country Confirmed Cases Confirmed DeathsConfirmed Recoveries
Algeria9868661
Angola821
Benin131
Botswana41
Burkina Faso2881650
Burundi3
Cameroon284710
Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)61
Central African Republic (CAR)3
Chad7
Congo2222
Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)19419
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)123113
Djibouti40
Egypt86558201
Equatorial Guinea151
Eritrea22
Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)9
Ethiopia293
Gabon181
Gambia412
Ghana204531
Guinea52
Guinea-Bissau9
Kenya11034
Liberia6
Libya10
Madagascar59
Malawi3
Mali363
Mauritania612
Mauritius1697
Morocco6914430
Mozambique10
Namibia142
Niger745
Nigeria184220
Rwanda84
Senegal195155
Seychelles10
Sierra Leone2
Somalia51
South Africa 1,462550
Sudan822
Tanzania2012
Togo39217
Tunisia455145
Uganda45
Zambia391
Zimbabwe91

Note: The numbers will be updated as new information is available.

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Current Affairs

Op-Ed: These Are The Six Stages Of Changes In Consumer Behaviour Led By The Coronavirus Pandemic

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With a possible call for a lockdown looming in South Africa, people are stockpiling for the worst case scenario. Although some may think it’s too early to be taking such panic-driven action, it seems this behaviour is perfectly aligned with global consumer behaviour trends caused by the different stages of the Coronavirus outbreak.

A recent Nielson’s report highlights that there are key consumer behavioural changes that occur parallel to each stage of the virus’s evolution. Nielson identifies that these consumer changes are being mirrored by every country that is currently trying to flatten the curve. Nielson identified the following stages together with changes in consumer behaviour at each stage:

Stage Coronavirus Event Markers Consumer Behaviour Change
Stage 1 Health-minded Buying Minimal localised cases of Covid-19 generally linked to arrival from another country. Consumer’s interest rises in products that support overall maintenance of health and wellness. 
Stage 2 Reactive Health Management First local transmission with no link to other location and first Covid-19 related death/s.  Prioritise products essential to virus containment, health and public safety. E.g., face masks
Stage 3 Pantry Preparation Multiple cases of local transmission and multiple deaths linked to Covid-19 Pantry stockpiling and shelf-stable foods and a broader assortment of health-safety products; spike in-store visits; growing basket sizes. 
Stage 4  Quarantined Living Preparation Localised Covid-19 emergency actions, percentage of people diagnosed positive continues to increase. Increased online shopping, a decline in-store visits, rising out-of-stocks, strains on the supply chain.
Stage 5 Restricted Living Mass cases of Covid-19. Communities ordered a lockdown. Severely restricted shopping trips, online fulfilment is limited, price concerns rise as limited stock availability impacts pricing in some cases. 
Stage 6 Living a New Normal Covid-19 quarantines lift beyond region/country’s most-affected hotspots and life starts to return to normal.  People return to daily routines (work, school, etc.) but operate with a renewed cautiousness about health. Permanent shifts in the supply chain, the use of e-commerce and hygiene practices. 

(table source)

Although South Africa has yet to have any deaths, our own consumer behaviour is following this trend almost exactly. Derek Cikes, COO of online payment solution Payflex has been following the effects of Coronavirus on retail closely since the outbreak and says that South Africa is somewhere between stages 4 (Quarantined Living Preparation) and 5 (Restricted Living).

“We’ve seen a significant increase in online shopping both in our own data and at our merchants. South Africans are looking to online stores to keep goods flowing while we all prepare for a possible lockdown. But we’re also seeing the limitations and strain put on online retail because of this surge in users,” says Cikes. 

In line with Nielson’s stage 5 attributes, South Africa is clearly seeing the strain put on online grocers and their supply chain due to the demand of social distancing and self-quarantine. Checkers launched their app sixty60 to major SA cities promising to deliver your groceries within 60 minutes only to have to adjust that promise due to increased demand for the home deliveries. Pick ‘n Pay’s online store is also showing signs of a supply chain disruption as a large percentage of goods are unavailable or sold out. 

In order to ease the strain on the supply chain caused by panic buying, both Checkers and Pick ‘n Pay have implemented rationing, meaning that consumers are only allowed a certain number of each product per purchase. This action hopes to ensure that all South Africans are able to get what they need for the weeks ahead. Other online grocery apps such as OneCart are seeing an unprecedented increase in users. For example, OneCart is usually able to deliver groceries within an hour, but because of increased demand, now have a 2 to 3 day delivery time.

In its Situational Threat Report Index, Bain & Company states that the concept of the shopping journey in physical stores is taking on a new meaning and importance, given the potential for transmitting the virus at each interaction. 

According to Bain & Company’s index, the world is currently sitting at a level 6 global threat which is called Markets and Public in Multiple Major Nations Reacting Strongly. The index combines official data with Bain’s own modelling. It evaluates Coronovirus’s effect on global business, grading it from 0 (a negligible threat) to 10 (severe global recessionary conditions). 

South Africa is no different, with stores and businesses scrambling to find innovative solutions to keep customers safe and secure. For example, a Spar franchise in the north eastern suburbs of Johannesburg recently put up perspex glass panes at each till to create a physical divide between shopper and cashier while delivery services such as Woolworths allow the drivers to drop the goods in a safe area outside the house without coming into contact with customers. Uber Eats and Mr D have implemented similar regulations.

Bain & Company also note that in most segments, the outbreak will probably reduce traffic and revenue. They say that retailers of all types must be prepared to act quickly to mitigate the impact of such turbulence, while also learning from the experience of their counterparts in China and other hard-hit countries. And even as they strain every sinew to address short-term disruption, retail executives also need to begin medium-term planning for an eventual recovery.

Falling in line with Nielson’s stage 6 “A New Normal”, Cikes believes that there will be a permanent change in the way South Africans use e-commerce. 

“If there was anyone who was reluctant to use online shopping as a viable way to get both necessities and luxury goods, Coronavirus is sure to change this. It’s forcing people to get online and this may change the way South Africans shop forever. This will also push retail to think about bringing their own stores online if they haven’t already,” says Cikes.

Content provided by Nielson

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Health

Working From Home During The Coronavirus Pandemic: What You Need To Know

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As coronavirus cases have surged, so have the number of companies asking their employees to work from home, with 46% of American businesses having implemented remote-work policies as of mid-February. While telecommuting has become more mainstream in recent years—the remote workforce grew 159% between 2005 and 2017—when just 3.4% of Americans work from home at least half of the time, it’s not unreasonable to think that many of the employees who have been asked to work from home due to the coronavirus may have little to no experience doing so, or at least not for an extended period of time.

Whether you’re a first-time telecommuter struggling to be as productive from your couch as you are from your cube, or a manager looking for ways to keep your newly remote team engaged, here’s everything you need to know about working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll be adding to this guide as the situation develops, so check back for updates.

How To Work From Home

As the coronavirus has continued to spread, some of the world’s biggest businesses have asked employees to work from home. But if you’re working remotely for an extended period of time, how can you ensure that you’re just as productive from your couch as you are from your cube? These six tips may be key to your success.

Many organizations have encouraged their workers to curb, if not cancel, business trips. If yours hasn’t, you may be wondering whether your boss can make you travel during an outbreak. The short answer: Maybe.

If you can’t telecommute and have to miss work due to being quarantined, can you lose your job? Here’s what you need to know about your rights.

March is typically a strong hiring month, but as COVID-19 continues to spread, the job market may experience a slowdown. Whatever you do, don’t abandon your search—heed this advice to achieve the best possible outcome.

If you’re a member of the class of 2020, with just weeks to go until graduation, chances are you’ve got more than a few questions about how, if at all, the coronavirus may affect your job hunt. Here’s what you need to know

Hiring may slow down, but it’s not likely to come to a grinding halt. There will always be a demand for top talent, even in a down market, and if you’re responsive to potential employers, open to alternative arrangements and follow these steps, you’ll be better equipped to keep your search alive.

How To Manage A Remote Team

As COVID-19 forces employers to embrace remote work, leaders have found themselves faced with a unique challenge: engaging employees from afar. Here’s how to get started.

Despite the widespread adoption of telecommuting, remote-work advocates aren’t necessarily celebrating. Going remote may seem simple, but without the proper processes in place, experts warn that such arrangements can have serious consequences for companies.

In times of uncertainty, people look to their leaders for answers. But you don’t have to know everything about COVID-19 to effectively address your team’s concerns—what you do need is a crisis communications plan.

Leaders would also do well to stick to the facts and avoid any absolutes, exaggerations or otherwise emotive language. In other words, don’t say these 10 things.

The bottom line: Keep calm. Panic is contagious, but so is courage, and by following these six steps, you’ll be better equipped to lead through tumultuous times.

Vicky Valet, Forbes Staff, Careers

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