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The Power of Photography: A Journey through Southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Yemen

Screenshot of Foreign Policy photo essay

Screenshot of Foreign Policy photo essay

Not only do pictures say a thousand words, they provide insights to worlds, lives and people behind the headlines, news stories and carefully researched in-depth articles. Words can never quite convey the reality of life in conflict zones or after natural disasters.

I found the following photo essays to provide just such insight. They are beautiful as photographs, but also as pictorial narratives that we as visually wired creatures can appreciate, analyze and use in the formation of a more comprehensive picture of world events and places.

The first one is a harrowing and touching photo essay on the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami in Southeast Asia, put together by Alan Taylor of the Boston Globe.

The second and third collection provide insights into two of the most talked about conflict zones in the world, Afghanistan and Yemen. These photo essays by Foreign Policy show life behind the headlines, often normal and ordinary; historically rich and sometimes stunningly beautiful.

Ready for My Close Up Mr Saakashvili

If you squint really, really hard...

If you squint really, really hard...

In what should be a record for the quickest turnaround from real life to “reel” life, the events of the 2008 South Ossetia War may be on their way to a screen near you.

According to Reuters, Finnish director Renny Harlin is currently shooting the as-of-yet untitled project in Georgia. Andy Garcia will play Tie-Taster-in-Chief Mikhail Saakashvili.

Who’s backing the project? The article says Papuna Davitaia, “a parliament deputy from Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement” is a producer (meaning, he’s one of the money men). IMDB says “Mizra Davitaia.” I’m going to assume Papuna and Mizra are one in the same.

Now remember, the EU found that both sides bore equal responsibility (or at least shifting), for the conflict. But with Georgia money shoring up the production, should we guess who’ll wear the white hat?

But there are more important questions to ask, like who will play Putin.

I vote for Bruce Willis.

Medvedev?

Tom Cruise. They’re about the same height.

Want to know more about South Ossetia without the lights, cameras and action? Here you go.

Images: Garcia by Mireille Ampilhac/flickr, Saakashvili by Vladimer Shioshvili/flickr

Big State is Watching You

Police guard on the Kasr El Nil Bridge in Cairo.

Police guard on the Kasr El Nil Bridge in Cairo / photo: Cristina Viehmann

A new report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) tells us that Burma is the worst place in the world to be a blogger.

Next on the list of countries notorious for clever intimidation techniques are the Middle East and North Africa candidates: Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

I’ve just returned from Egypt, ranked 10th on the CPJ list. After my Cairo conversations with young journalists and artists, I also realized how difficult it still is to walk the thin line between the state and religious authorities in this country. Even with this, bloggers and internet artists dare to voice what they think.

Take Mohammed A. Fahmy for example, leader of the Ganzeer art project in Cairo. In his work he does not refrain from criticizing both the government and the societal or religious constraints ruling his country. Referring to a cover from a December 2004 Cairo youth magazine, illustrating the many “fine” inventions of Arab civilization, one of which is the “presidential monarchy,” I asked Mohammed: “How critical can you afford to be?”

“As critical as it gets,” he said.

Citizen journalism and artistic creation presuppose freedom of speech. Bloggers report, artists depict. Mohammed is one of those young critical voices that won’t be intimidated.

And yet, the role of intimidation remains strong in Egypt; in every aspect of life where opinions are to be voiced. A few fall prey to the oppressive state mechanisms: detention, hearings and weeks under state observation. These serve as warnings for all other critical voices out there.

As the CPJ report points out, in these countries it is enough to jail a few bloggers to intimidate the rest. It’s an oblation given for criticism and analysis to continue.

Yet even in these countries, censorship rules will not prevail. Technological advances are with the young and connected. Therefore, censors will lose the race.

In this article from the ISN Digital Library you can read how the new Arab media challenges the militaries. Also, you might want to check our Security Watch news stories, about the limits of Egypt’s cyberactivism, the Bahraini blogosphere and about how blogs and Internet forums debate political issues in Russia.

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