Correspondent / behind the news

Nigeria’s vote, in my classroom

Monday 27 April 2015 Debriefing

People wait to vote at a polling station in Abuja during presidential elections on March 28, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / NICHOLE SOBECKI)

"When the AFP Foundation asked me to go to Abu Dhabi to train a group of Nigerian news editors in advanced business reporting, I had no idea I would be getting a first-hand glimpse of politics in Africa's most populous nation, in an air-conditioned Emirati facility nearly 6,000 kilometres from Lagos," writes AFP TV journalist Jurgen Hecker.

(Photo: AFP / Nichole Sobecki)

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Hunger games in a troubled land

Tuesday 13 January 2015 Debriefing

A smuggler carries food from Kentucky Fried Chicken to be delivered through an underground tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, on May 13, 2013 in Rafah (AFP PHOTO)

"Covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires both a strong stomach and a fertile imagination," writes Selim Saheb Ettaba, who recently left Jerusalem after four years as AFP's chief correspondent for Gaza and the West Bank. "However fond you are of eggplant, would you really want to eat it at every single meal, in an infinite variety of preparations, mashed or whole, stuffed, grilled or baked, plain or marinated? That was, in essence, the question facing me as I prepared to take up the job."

(AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)

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Musical discoveries on 1,300-band week

Wednesday 5 November 2014 Debriefing

Bass player and vocals, Paula Cullen, of the Irish Band September Girls (AFP Photo / Don Emmert)

"I'm an obsessive music-lover, someone who would rather be at a concert than almost anywhere else (with a few exceptions)", writes New York-based reporter Shaun Tandon. "But even for me the five days of CMJ offer daunting choices".

CMJ is a 33-year-old annual institution in New York in which dozens of clubs across the city transform into testing grounds for up-and-coming (or hoping-to-be up-and-coming) bands that want to gain notice. Here are a few highlights that, in Shaun's opinion, stood out.

(AFP Photo / Don Emmert)

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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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Climate change: The 'Oh Shit!' moment

Monday 22 September 2014 Debriefing


Marlowe Hood was a senior science and environment correspondent for AFP from 2007 to 2012. As world leaders gather in New York to confront the threat of climate change, he contemplates just how bad things might be. (A version of this post was first published in July.)

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Disaster: when heart and mind collide

Thursday 25 July 2013 Debriefing

A picture taken on July 24, 2013 shows derailed cars at the site of a train accident near the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Covering a major disaster is a strange test for a journalist. First, there’s the avalanche of tragic details, which can be numbing and exciting at the same time. Then later, at the end of the day, the reality of the story hits. Natalia Sanguino, a reporter in the AFP Madrid bureau, helped cover the July 24 train crash that claimed at least 77 lives. Here she talks about the shift from reporter to citizen.

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Tasting the Big Apple's core, one story at a time

Monday 3 June 2013 Debriefing


From stuffed mice to naked cowboys, AFP's outgoing New York correspondent Sebastian Smith looks back on his five years covering the Big Apple. (AFP Photo/Getty Images/Spencer Platt)

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Cannes: Game of Badges

Tuesday 14 May 2013 Debriefing


Journalists do a lot of waiting in Cannes. Until we rush frantically like someone trying to catch the last train to Salvation. Then we wait some more. And that’s the way it is during the world’s most glam film festival: bouts of downtime punctuated by adrenaline-pumping excitement of the highest caliber. Anne Chaon, AFP's cinema correspondent until earlier this year, looks back on what it's like to cover Cannes.

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Boston bombings on the e-diplomacy hub

Friday 19 April 2013 Debriefing

Photographs of one of two suspects wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings are released by the FBI at a press conference April 18, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.

"#boston", "#watertown" and '#bostonmarathon" are among the top hastags cited on 'the e-diplomacy hub', an application that follows real-time conversations among top-tier officials, experts and activists in the realm of digital diplomacy. Here's what they are saying. (AFP Photo/Stan Honda)

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Nepal: a bittersweet farewell

Monday 25 March 2013 Debriefing

A bird picks food from the statue of the Hindu god Garuda at Basantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu on March 20, 2013.  The Durbar Square is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

AFP Correspondent Frankie Taggart looks back on 18 months covering Nepal while bureau chief in Kathmandu. There were, to be sure, a lot of stories focused on mountains and Maoists, but living near the roof of the world was a truly rich and, sometimes, otherworldly experience, he reports. (AFP Photo/Prakash Mathema)

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Hugo Chavez: Behind the myth, a man

Friday 8 March 2013 Debriefing

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during a ceremony at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on January 27, 2012.

AFP correspondent Beatriz Lecumberri covered Venezuela -- which is another way of saying she covered Hugo Chavez -- between 2008 and 2011. Elsewhere, she had described for Correspondent what it was like working in the long shadow of the outsized personality that was "El Jefe". Here, she reflects on the Chavez legacy, and the vacuum created by his death. (AFP Photo/Juan Barreto)

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Stuffed to the gills in Sudan

Monday 14 January 2013 Debriefing

Accréditation de presse pour l'inauguration du barrage de Roseires, le 1er janvier 2013 (photo: AFP / Ian Timberlake)

Opportunities for journalists to travel in Sudan are rare, so when the government unexpectedly offered AFP’s Khartoum-based correspondent Ian Timberlake a chance to visit a war-ravaged region in the south – to inspect a dam project – he’s jumped. Fortunately, he didn’t pack a lunch. (AFP Photo / Ebrahim Hamid)

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Politics in Turkey a movable feast for reporters

Friday 11 January 2013 Debriefing

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the military's highest annual meeting with top military officials at the army headquarters in Ankara on August 1, 2010.

Whatever history’s judgment on the virtues and effectiveness of Turkey’s current leadership, for a reporter covering the day-by-day evolution of this gateway nation – the tectonic plate between Europe and the Middle East – they are certainly newsworthy. AFP senior correspondent Michel Sailhan, winding down a four-year tour of duty as our bureau chief in Ankara, reflects on Turkey’s recent past and possible futures. (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

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Myanmar thaw: a dissident stays in the shadows

Thursday 18 October 2012 Debriefing

Photo taken 29 September 2007 showing people marching in protest in Yangon in the strongest show of dissent against the ruling generals in nearly two decades.

"I met him for the first time in 2007, while he was on the run from the secret police," recalls Hong Kong-based AFP reporter Anuj Chopra, speaking of a Burmese political activist long at odds with his country's military regime. They met in a Japanese restaurant in one of the swankiest hotels in Yangon, the country’s largest city. "It was an improbable venue for a rendezvous with someone atop the government's 'most wanted' list..." (AFP PHOTO / Mizzima News)

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South Korea, obscured by a northern shadow

Friday 31 August 2012 Debriefing

South Korea's Ryu Seungmin (R) shakes hands with North Korea's Kim Hyok Bong after the table tennis men's team match of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Excel centre in London on August 4, 2012.

Foreign correspondents arriving in Seoul quickly realize to what extent the divided Korean peninsula's northern half – held in Stalinist-style thrall by the Kim dynasty for more than six decades – casts a long and dark shadow over the bustling, vibrant south. AFP’s Simon Martin, winding down a six-year tour of duty, reflects on the Korean quandary. (AFP Photo/Saeed Khan)

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Sarkozy & the media: trailing “le hyper-president”

Monday 6 August 2012 Debriefing

French President Nicolas Sarkozy winks as he attends the ceremony of the Bastille Day, on July 14, 2008 in Paris.

Never, arguably, has a French president slid so far so fast towards unpopularity as Nicolas Sarkozy, who failed this year in his bid to win a second five-year term in office. Philippe Alfroy, one of AFP's two “Elysee” correspondents, describes what it was like covering France’s hyperactive “hyper-president,” whose ambivalence toward the media vacillated between charm offensives and outbursts of contempt. (AFP Photo Gerard Cerles)

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The Fifth Estate: Hacktivists lambast AFP

Friday 13 July 2012 Debriefing


AFP came under intense attack from some French-based hactivists recently over an article on the Syrian government’s bombardment of opposition stronghold Homs that cited conversations with sources there identified by pseudonyms. The Internet-based activists charged that the news agency was endangering its sources by communicating with them via Skype, even if they were identified with fictitious monikers. AFP countered that it takes every precaution to protect its sources. Here’s a blow-by-blow of how the firestorm erupted and, finally, died down.

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Hugo and me

Tuesday 17 April 2012 Debriefing

Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.“What possessed you to ask that question?  Honestly, I can’t believe that this problem interests you more than, say, world hunger.  I bet you were forced to ask that question. Pathetic.” So begins, in 2008, the relationship between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and AFP’s newly appointed bureau chief in Caracas. Beatriz Lecumberri tells us what it was like living with Hugo. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)


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