Coverage of street demonstrations is an exceptionally dangerous assignment, with journalists subject to assaults, obstruction, detention, raids, threats, censorship orders, and confiscation or destruction of equipment. This report is one in a series of three by Getty photographers who documented for CPJ their recent experiences covering protests and shared their photographs.
By Brendan Hoffman/Getty photographer
For most of the three months of protests in Kiev, the operating environment was quite open and easy for journalists and photojournalists to work among the protesters. Aside from the several times that police attempted to violently clear the Maidan, in which there were some journalists injured, it was not dangerous.
More in this series
• Covering Venezuela
• Covering Crimea
By late January, it was very difficult to cover the clashes from the perspective of the police. While protesters had constructed barricades to hide behind, police were–for the most part–out in the open, with only their shields for protection. That worked for them, but afforded a photographer little cover from incoming rocks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks. As a result, very little of my time was spent photographing from the police side. It was not always safe from the protesters’ side either, but the police response was, mostly, predictable and controlled, so it was possible to stay out of the way. There were times when police threw rocks and Molotov cocktails back at protesters, so most journalists wore sturdy helmets.
The greatest dangers came on February 20, when government snipers were actively shooting front-line protesters. It was very difficult to tell exactly where the shooting was coming from or where it would be aimed next. A number of journalists were wearing bright orange vests marked PRESS, though I was not, as I wasn’t convinced that it made us less of a target.
I did not see any journalists who were actively targeted, though I did see one man being carried on a stretcher while clutching a tripod and video camera. It was unclear whether he was a journalist, though I assume he was. He had been shot in the leg. While journalists in Kiev did not seem to be active targets (though some local journalists disagree), the chances of being hit with a rock or rubber bullet were just as high for journalists as for protesters. The severity of the consequences was a matter of chance.