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  • Molhem Barakat, a 18-year-old Syrian photographer who took pictures for Reuters as freelancer, was  killed Friday, December 20th as he took photographs of a battle over a hospital between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo.

    Why is Reuters paying an unexperienced 18-year-old kid to photograph for them in one of the bloodiest civil wars in modern history? In the US or in Europe as in many other countries this behaviour could result in charges of third degree murder (killing as the results from indifference or negligence).

    This year many of the top agencies and news media stopped assigning journalists to cover the war in Syria due to the extreme danger. Reuters didn't discourage Molhem Barakat, but encouraged him actively by paying him and selling his pictures.

    Molhem's close friend Hannah Lucinda Smith mourns the loss of her friend: He often asked me if he could work with me and I refused, because I didn’t want the responsibility of an eager seventeen year old with no war zone training and little experience on my shoulders. Soon afterwards I saw that he was filing photos for Reuters. I hope that they took responsibility for him in a way that I couldn’t, and I hope that if he was taking photographs as he died in the hope of selling them to that agency, they also take responsibility for him now                                                                                                 

    Here some important questions raised by Corey Pein on his blog:

  • Why did Reuters not mention Molhem’s age in its report on his death? If the agency did not know his true age, why not?

  • Who besides the named editor reviewed the report on his death before publication? Was it reviewed by lawyers? [What about the statement published in response to the BBC’s questions?]

  • What were the nature of injuries that led to Molhem’s death? How did Reuters learn about what had happened to him?

  • Is Reuters in contact with his next of kin? Has the company made any offer of assistance for instance to defray the funerary expenses?

  • Did Molhem sell pictures to any other news organizations? What percentage of his income did Reuters provide?

  • Did he have any contract with Reuters? What did it stipulate?

  • How often did he submit pictures? How many of those pictures were accepted?

  • Was he provided with any equipment from Reuters? What type? Did Reuters offer him a bulletproof vest, helmet or eye protection? A satellite phone?

  • Was he provided with safety training? Was he provided with any training whatsoever?

  • Was he insured? Did Reuters offer any subsidy for this?

  • Who were his points of contact at Reuters?

  • Did they ever suggest he cover certain stories or travel to certain locations?

  • Did they suggest how he might improve his work or make it more salable? Did they for instance ever suggest that he get closer to his subjects?

  • Did they ever warn him against covering a certain story out of concern for his safety? If so, what circumstances triggered those warnings?

  • Did he ever cover stories that under the same or similar circumstances would have been deemed too dangerous for a full-time Reuters employee?

  • Did they ever hold out the possibility of advancement or full-time employment within Reuters?

  • Did they ever hold out the possibility of offering help with employment, education or amnesty abroad?

  • Why was he not hired as a full-time employee?

  • If he might have been deemed too inexperienced or unqualified to gain a staff job, why was he deemed fit to submit work from an immensely challenging, complex and dangerous environment?

     

 

Child turned down by Al-Qaeda linked group dies shooting for Reuters in Syria

 

 

Letter to
Corporate Affairs. David Crundwell,
Corporate Affairs. David Girardin.
VP, Global Head of Communications, Reuters Barb Burg
Take accountability on the murder of Molhem Baraka.