Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ruud Elmendorp: Videojournalism in Africa

Ruud Elmendorp, a Dutch videojournalist in Africa, writes about his professional experiences:

Before 2000 I was the typical television reporter coming with a crew. When the small digital cameras entered the market I took the challenge to do it on my own. As early video journalists we for some reason were forced into an innovative and creative approach. We had to do something different [than] the traditional crews, and so we did.

That was before I moved to Africa.

Here I saw that almost every television person is a video journalist. Most local television channels cannot afford full crews, and they depend on one-man-bands. ...

Being a VJ is about logistics.

In many African countries you have to a be a video journalist to move around. In remote areas it’s difficult to travel with a full crew, or you have to rent an expensive 4×4. A VJ can hop in local transport, or even board humanitarian or military flights taking the last and only, lucky-for-you, seat.

There are so many times it happened to me like that, and on arrival you’d discover that none of the traditional crews had made it there. That’s of course best, and it happens often.

It’s the same with borders. A video journalist can easily cross since the camera will be stowed away in your backpack, and no customs officer will bother. No need to fill out temporary import forms, or to pay deposits. They just consider you a tourist.

Being a VJ is about press freedom.

In several countries in Africa the press is free, as long as it doesn’t criticize the government or other big entities too openly. It means that when things get dirty, it will become difficult for journalists to get there.

The fun part about it is that you will not openly be denied access. They let you go through friendly but lenghty accrediation procedures. If you get accredited at last, the event you were looking for will be long gone. Most journalists by then will have moved to other things to report on, and that’s what they’re aiming at.

Still, in the end your accreditation will only be a piece of paper, or a stamp. On the way you will find roadblocks manned by police officers who of course never heard of it, and can only let you pass after paying a hefty bribe.

The video journalist would be long back from shooting that same event, by being one of the passengers on local transport....
Read Ruud Elmendorp's full report here. Visit his website here.

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