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Eye witness

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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


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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

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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

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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

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"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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Prepping for the apocalypse

Thursday 3 July 2014 Eye witness

This photo taken on December 11, 2012 shows farmer Liu Qiyuan looking out from a survival pod that he built and also dubbed 'Noah's Arc', in the village of Qiantun, Hebei province, south of Beijing.

As the countdown to apocalypse elapses, one entrepreneur in China is busy building spherical survival pods suitable for just about any impending disaster. Named in honor of the Biblical Noah, his wooden 'arks' may or may not stay afloat in stormy seas, but they can withstand the shock of head on collision with a truck. Beijing-based AFP correspondent Tom Hancock was on hand for a test drive. (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

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Beers and leers: Sexism at the World Cup

Wednesday 2 July 2014 Eye witness

British tourists watch the Spain-Holland game in a bar in Manaus. (AFP Photo/Raphael Alves)

AFP video journalist Celeste Jones found herself in a jam-packed bar in Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest, to film English football fans the night before England’s World Cup match against Italy, on June 13. She experienced soccer sexism first-hand.

(AFP Photo/Raphael Alves)

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Secret diplomacy in the Twitter age

Wednesday 25 June 2014 Eye witness

US Secretary of State John Kerry greets US marines as he arrives at the US embassy in the International Zone June 23, 2014 in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. (AFP Photo/POOL/Brendan Smialowski)

(AFP Photo/Pool/Brendan Smialowski)

"So," my neighbor asked casually on as we chatted on her lawn, "are you going with Kerry to Iraq?" My jaw dropped. This was after all three days before we were due to arrive and the visit was supposedly hush-hush. The bosses, and my husband, were the only people in my circle I'd told.

But in the days of Twitter, 24-hour news and social networking, Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Baghdad on Monday was possibly one of the worst kept secrets in diplomatic history, writes AFP's State Department correspondent, Jo Biddle.

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Spain's crisis: Noisy helicopters, silent airports

Tuesday 24 June 2014 Eye witness

A waiter in Madrid bars police from his restaurant after "indignados" demonstrators sought refuge there. (AFP Photo/Pierre-Philippe Marcou)


AFP Madrid correspondent Katell Abiven has been covering Spain for the past four years, coinciding with an unprecedented slide of the Spanish economy from boom into deep crisis. As she prepares to join AFP’s Latin America team in the Montevideo regional hub, Katell looks back at the Spanish economic collapse.

(AFP Photo/Pierre-Philippe Marcou)

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A game changer in Iraq

Friday 20 June 2014 Eye witness

A displaced Iraqi woman shouts as she waits to register at a temporary camp set up to shelter people fleeing violence in northern Iraq on June 17, 2014 in Aski kalak, 40 kms west of the Kurdish autonomous region's capital Arbil. (AFP Photo/Karim Sahib)

"In a way, I feel almost like a sportswriter. Having covered Iraq for more than five years, I was wrapping up my story -- mentally, emotionally, socially," writes AFP's Baghdad bureau chief Prashant Rao. "I was due to leave for good in a matter of weeks, and so my match was in its metaphorical 85th minute, my story nearly written.

"Now? It feels like the losing side has suddenly scored three goals and I have no idea what just happened."

(AFP Photo/Karim Sahib)

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What to do with horrific images from Iraq

Wednesday 18 June 2014 Eye witness

An image uploaded June 14 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows ISIL militants executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in Iraq's Salaheddin province. (AFP / HO / Welayat Salahuddin)


Deeply disturbing images show Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants executing soldiers or security force members somewhere in Iraq’s Salaheddin province. They were first uploaded on June 14 and soon appeared on various websites and jihadist Twitter accounts, and they have now been published by AFP and other news agencies.

"Pictures like these clearly amount to extremist propaganda, so should they have been published? For AFP, the answer is yes -- but not without first taking careful precautions to ensure they were not faked," writes AFP blogs editor Roland de Courson. "We also avoided publishing those photos depicting gratuitous violence for its own sake."

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