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Eye witness

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Syria's 'hospital' of horrors

Wednesday 12 November 2014 Eye witness

An injured girl is treated at a makeshift hospital in the besieged rebel bastion of Douma, northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus, on September 24, 2014, following reported airstrikes by government forces (AFP Photo / Abd Doumany)

Douma is a Syrian rebel Bastion. A city of 200,000 just northeast of Damascus, it has been under siege for more than a year by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and has been hit practically every day by heavy artillery fire and air and ground raids.

"I head to the hospital each time an intense bombing or air raid hits Douma to document the attacks", says Abd Doumany, a freelance photographer that works for AFP. "At times when I arrive, it is as if I've entered a nightmare".

(AFP Photo / Abd Doumany)

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From AFP beirut to First Lady of Afghanistan

Friday 7 November 2014 Eye witness

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, also known as Bibi Gul, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on October 30, 2014 (AFP Photo / Shah Marai)

She is one of the key personalities of the new Afghanistan. First lady since September, the former AFP journalist of Lebanese Christian heritage Rula Ghani has already broken some taboos. The AFP correspondent in Kabul Emmanuel Parisse writes about his interview of Mrs Ghani, also known as 'Bibi Gul', in the Afghan presidential palace.

(AFP Photo / Shah Marai)

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Watching a world come tumbling down

Friday 7 November 2014 Eye witness

Berlines party in front of the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate on November 15, 1989 (AFP Photo / Gerard Malie)

Twenty five years ago, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came crumbling down in a rush of euphoria. Torn down in the space of a few hours by tens of thousands of Berliners come to claim back the freedom stolen from them 28 years earlier, on the night of August 13, 1961, when the Wall of Shame went up.

That night an ecstatic crowd chanted "Open the door!" (Tor Auf! Tor Auf!) before the amazed eyes of AFP reporters who knew they were witnessing history in the making.

(Photo: AFP / Gérard Malie)

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The terrible beauty of a Mexican mass grave

Tuesday 4 November 2014 Eye witness

A cross with no name is seen at the area for unidentified corpses in the municipal cemetery in Iguala, Guerrero state, Mexico on October 12, 2014 (AFP Photo / Yuri Cortez)

As night falls over the slopes of the Cerro Gordo, the kaleidoscope of colours from yellow to black should be a delight for a photographer. But the stunning natural beauty of the site in southern Mexico conceals a horrific hidden truth. "The majestic mountain is a mass grave", writes AFP photographer Yuri Cortez, "a dumping ground for dozens -- if not hundreds -- of people fallen victim to the hellish violence of the Mexican drug trade."

(AFP Photo / Yuri Cortez)

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Thief! Liar! Nazi! Kisses dear, see you next week!

Friday 24 October 2014 Eye witness

Supporters of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff  demonstrate against corruption in the state oil company Petrobras, in Rio de Janeiro on September 15, 2014 (AFP Photo / Vanderlei Almeida)

"Along with 202 million Brazilians, I've spent the past weeks watching the most vitriolic election campaign in the country's recent history", writes Laura Bonilla, AFP deputy bureau chief in Rio de Janeiro. "The rivals on the ballot for Sunday's presidential run-off have torn into each other in a series of televised debates, accusing one another -- explicitly or by insinuation -- of corruption, nepotism, incompetence, drunk or drugged driving, beating women, and using Nazi propaganda tactics, among other things".

"Then, without fail, Dilma Rousseff, the leftist incumbent, and Aecio Neves, her center-right challenger, kiss each other on their sweaty, heavily made-up cheeks, smile and exchange congratulations."

(AFP Photo / Vanderlei Almeida)

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Je t'aime : Kerry's love affair with France

Tuesday 21 October 2014 Eye witness

Kerry arrives for a meeting at the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Affairs ministry, on September 15, 2014 in Paris (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Secretary of State John Kerry may be the champion-in-chief of American values abroad and who once ran to be US president, but who in his heart of hearts is constantly called back to Paris.

"Kerry's French roots run deep", writes AFP's State Department correspondent Jo Biddle. "His mother Rosemary Forbes was born in Paris in the 1920s and served as a nurse in the French capital during World War II (...) Once sneered at in America for being a fluent French speaker during his failed 2004 bid for the White House, the top US diplomat has been liberated in his new job, frequently chatting in French".

(AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

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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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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


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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Covering cricket at the highest level

Tuesday 30 September 2014 Eye witness

Cricketers play on September 26, 2014 on the ice-covered crater of the Kilimanjaro mountain, Tanzania (AFP Photo / Peter Martell)

Nairobi-based reporter Peter Martell covers a cricket game in the crater of the Kilimanjaro mountain, and breaks the record for the highest AFP story sent.

(AFP Photo / Peter Martell)

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Back to the future in Scotland

Monday 22 September 2014 Eye witness

The Saltire, the flag of Scotland flies above the Union flag near the historic border between Scotland and England in August 2014 (AFP Photo / Andy Buchanan)

From Quebec to Edimburg with a stop in Juba : AFP Islamabad-based reporter Guillaume Lavallée has witnessed three independence referendums.

"For people who have a country of their own, independence movements can seem inward-looking, all the more so in a globalised era", he writes. "But if you do not feel you belong to a country, independence may feel crucial to affirming who you are, taking hold of your destiny and making your voice heard in the world. Two takes on the same word: nationalism."

(AFP Photo / Andy Buchanan)

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Letters from a mass murderer

Wednesday 10 September 2014 Eye witness

This picture taken on September 5, 2014 shows the signature under a letter by Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik addressed to AFP journalist Pierre-Henry Deshayes at the AFP office in Oslo (AFP Photo / Pierre-Henry Deshayes)

"Over the course of one year, I have received three letters from Anders Behring Breivik", writes AFP's correspondent in Oslo Pierre Henry-Deshayes. "A quick glance at the envelope is enough to identify the sender. The neat, clean handwriting in block letters is impossible to mistake for anyone else’s. It makes my blood freeze."

Then comes a fundamental question: Should AFP disseminate the contents or not? Obviously, in this type of situation journalists run the risk of being used and abused. On the other hand, people want to know how peaceful Norway could give rise to such a monster. They want to know what that monster is made of.

(AFP Photo / Pierre-Henry Deshayes)

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In bed with Ebola

Wednesday 3 September 2014 Eye witness

An MSF medical worker checks their protective clothing in a mirror at an MSF facility in Kailahun, on August 15, 2014 (AFP Photo / Carl de Souza)

"At 4:00am in an Ebola hot zone -- when you feel flushed, a little run-down and itchy from the prickly rash developing on your ankle -- paranoia can creep in. Did that kid touch me on the arm? Did that old guy who was spitting everywhere look sick? Did I touch my face before washing my hands after that interview? Is this a headache coming on? Is this a fever?"

Dakar-based reporter Frankie Taggart reports from Kailahun, in Eastern Sierra Leone, one of the worst-hit zones in an epidemic which has killed more than 1,500 people across west Africa.

(AFP Photo / Carl de Souza)

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How to survive a media scrum

Wednesday 16 July 2014 Eye witness


What happens when too many journalists are trying to nab the same information at the same time? AFP's Roland de Courson gives an insight into the media scrum.

(AFP Photo/Joe Klamar)

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Reporter short-circuits after interviewing robot

Wednesday 16 July 2014 Eye witness


AFP Tokyo reporter Alastair Himmer tried to interview a robot. The robot apparently had other plans.

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Suarez, Uruguay's raging hero

Thursday 10 July 2014 Eye witness


"As a Uruguayan, it was deeply painful to see our team lose its talisman, the explosive striker who had battled back from knee surgery to restore a glimmer of our little country's faded football glory," writes AFP's chief editor for Latin America, Maria Lorente.

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China grapples with the 'devils' of its past

Wednesday 9 July 2014 Eye witness

Chinese civilians take part in an event marking the start of the war with Japan. Beijing, July 7, 2014. (AFP Photo/Wang Zhao)

As China marks 77 years since the official start of the war with Japan, AFP Beijing correspondent Tom Hancock watches a Chinese dance troupe reenact past strife, highlighting China's sometimes-schizophrenic attitudes to its former adversary.

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Saying goodbye to a changing Russia

Monday 7 July 2014 Eye witness

A Russian Trans-Siberian train on the remote BAM railway line in northeastern Siberia. (Stuart Williams photo)

"It's true that Russia can be a tough and frankly life-sapping place to live. The seemingly endless winter that begins in the sheer misery of the soggy November darkness; the sometimes inexplicably abrupt behaviour of people in public life; the traffic jams that turn any outing into an operation requiring military planning.

"But I realised I could not imagine anywhere more enthralling on earth."

Former Moscow correspondent Stuart Williams bids farewell to Russia after spending more than five years in the country.

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