Correspondent / behind the news

Behind the image


Alleged Islamic State group militants stand next to an IS flag atop a hill in the Syrian town of Kobane, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border (AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)
AFP Photo / Aris Messinis

Black flag over Kobane


Fighters keep watch under the black flag of the Islamic State group on a hill to the east of the Syrian town of Kobane. AFP photographer Aris Messinis shot the picture early in the afternoon on Monday, October 6 from the Turkish village of Mursitpinar, just across the border. Its unusual composition and the fact that the militants' silhouettes seem out of proportion to other elements led some AFP clients to call the agency to check it was real.

It was. Here is the explanation.


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Above the fold

Watching the Kobane battle from 'media hill'

Thursday 16 October 2014 - Eye witness


Smoke rises after a strike on the Syrian town of Kobane as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border on October 12, 2014 (AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)

In the days before the conflict it was known to local gossips as the "love hill", a place where courting couples would come to chat and even flirt, away from prying eyes. But when Kobane became the focus of global attention this small bump of land by the Turkish border crossing of Mursitpinar became a magnet for the world's media. AFP reporter Fulya Ozerkan spent days there, watching the bitter fighting between the Islamic State group (IS) militants and Kurdish fighters for the Syrian town located just on the other side of the border.

(AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)


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Indonesia je t'aime : a nervous farewell

Wednesday 15 October 2014 - Debriefing


An Indonesian woman speaks on a mobile phone held by a girl while riding a motorcycle in Jakarta during the evening rush hour traffic on January 17, 2012 (AFP Photo / Romeo Gacad)

"I’ve watched nurses at a “health clinic” exhale cigarette smoke down a naked patient’s throat “to cure” her of emphysema", writes Angela Dewan, an AFP reporter based in Jakarta. "I’ve met women in Aceh, the only province to implement Islamic sharia law, forced to sit side-saddle on motorbikes because the city government decided straddling was “obscene” for women. I found myself taking beauty tips from a militant with links to Al Qaeda".

"After almost seven years trying to find the words to tell the outside world what’s happening in inside Indonesia, I still have these moments, where I need to pinch myself and remember I’m living in reality."

(AFP Photo / Romeo Gacad)


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At the heart of Bahrain's unrest

Saturday 11 October 2014 - Eye witness


Bahraini women mourn during the funeral of Sayed Mahmud Sayed Mohsin (portrait) in Sitra on May 24, 2014. Mohsin, 15, was reportedly shot dead by security forces during an opposition protest (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Photographer Mohammed Al-Shaikh received on Saturday, October 11 a Bayeux-Calvados prize for war correspondents. The independent 40-year-old photojournalist, who has worked regularly with AFP since 2011, was awarded for his coverage of violent protests in Bahrain. The tiny Gulf kingdom has been deeply divided since it was rocked by protests led by the Shiite majority in 2011 calling for democratic reforms, namely a constitutional monarchy.

(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)


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An Afghan poem of hope

Wednesday 8 October 2014 - Eye witness


Arrivee-Abouzar-Toronto-30avril.JPG

Abuzar's eyes were full of joy as he awoke in his family apartment in Toronto last week.

Finally, the big day he had been anticipating for weeks had come. He picked up his small backpack, his bottle and his Spiderman lunchbox, and set off for his first day at nursery after six months of rehabilitative care.

As he played in the middle of a crowd of hyperactive three-year-olds, no one could guess that the presence of the happy little Afghan was a small miracle.

For Abuzar, it was another tiny step toward building a new life more than 10,000 kilometres from his his hometown Kabul, where tragedy had robbed him of his parents, brother and sister eight months earlier.

(AFP Photo / Geoff Robins)


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After war, Gaza goes back to school

Wednesday 8 October 2014 - Eye witness


Palestinian students sit in a classroom at a goverment school in the Shejaiya neighbourhood of Gaza City on September 14, 2014 (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)

"Pictures of children going back to school in Gaza - I've taken hundreds of them", writes Mahmud Hams, a photographer at AFP Gaza bureau. "But those I took this year, I will never forget."

"On the children's faces, in place of the joy of being reunited with friends from school, or the enthusiasm of those beginning a new school year, you can often read anxiety and bad memories. When they get there, they don't know if they will find their school friends alive after Gaza lived through its deadliest war in years, a 50-day conflict which left nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead. Among them were around 500 children."

(AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)


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Sartre 1964 : A long forgotten scoop

Monday 6 October 2014 - Eye witness


French writer Jean-Paul Sartre gestures at a press conference in Paris, on February 15, 1971 (AFP Photo)

Jean-Paul Sartre's "non" to the Nobel Prize in 1964 is one of the best-known incidents in the Nobel history. "First question to ask yourself when writing about a 50-year-old event: what happened exactly ?", explains AFP Stockholm correspondent Hugues Honoré. "In this particular case, when and how did the French existentialist philosopher learn he had won the Nobel ? When and how did he announce he refused it ?"

After tedious research, Hugues finds out that Sartre's refusal was an AFP scoop. A very young reporter, François de Closets, found the philosopher at a restaurant, respectfully waited for him and Simone de Beauvoir to finish their lunch, then broke the news.

(AFP Photo)


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In Hong Kong, echoes of Berlin

Thursday 2 October 2014 - Decoding


Des milliers de jeunes Berlinois de l'Est escaladent le mur près de la porte de Brandebourg, le 11 novembre 1989 (AFP / Gérard Malie)

"There are of course plenty of reasons to say Berlin in 1989 and Hong Kong in 2014 are not comparable, yet they share intriguing similarities", writes Richard Ingham, who covered for AFP the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the handback of Hong Kong to China in 1997. "Enclaves, by the quirk of history that made them, are usually special places with a specific identity, often owing more loyalty to themselves than to the country that lays claim to them."

(AFP Photo / Gérard Malie)


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Editing images of ‘hell’, in close-up

Wednesday 1 October 2014 - Decoding


An editor at work at AFP's Middle East and North Africa photo desk in Nicosia (AFP Photo / Florian Choblet)

The photo and video editors in Nicosia, AFP's headquarters for the Middle East and North Africa, have to face a daily flood of unbearable images. It is their job to pore over the images from Syria, from Iraq, Gaza, Libya and other regional hotspots, and decide whether or not to publish them. It is their job to take in, for hours at a stretch each day, images of mutilated bodies, of wounded children screaming in pain, and -- more recently -- of hostages being beheaded.

Much of this ultra-violent imagery is unfit for publication under the criteria that AFP sets itself, and will end up in the bin. But not without inflicting a kind of repetitive shock to the journalists who have viewed it.

(AFP Photo / Florian Choblet)


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