- Reflection on my personal journalism at the G8
In order to report for and investigate the issues around alternative media and protest, I travelled to the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, near Rostock at the Baltic Sea in Germany in June 2007.
I did not travel alone but with my boyfriend, who took two weeks of his sacrilege holiday allowance, and we also visited my family.
However much he was supportive, when reporting, he also became a hindrance, for example as he does not have a press pass he was not allowed to cross police barriers, so I had to leave him behind when visiting the sit-in blockades.
He also wanted to avoid flashpoints and conflict zones, as he did not want to get arrested, whereas I wanted to be at the edge of the action and observe, document, picture and report it.
So we tried to compromise, I unfortunately never made it to the famous fence around the G8 summit, and in combination with our friends and colleagues from Indymedia UK, we decided that I and my friend would go on and report from actions that were further away and more difficult to get to, as we had a car.
My friend also wanted to sleep in every day, so getting up for the 4.30 am action of the autonomous black block on Thursday morning was double as hard with him snoring beside me.
He also prefered going swimming in the Baltic Sea to go to the sit-in blockades on Thursday, and he also freaked out when we were surrounded by police in the convergence centre and kept from leaving during the neonazi rally.
Apart from that, it was quite difficult to join protesters on spontaneous actions, because I always had to let him know what I was doing, especially as it was in Germany and he doesn’t speak the local language, whereas I do. It was also his first stay at a protest camp during a huge international mobilisation, though most of the people were actually German, especially in Rostock camp and convergence centre and he seemed to feel a bit linguistically and culturally isolated the first days.
Luckily, when we moved over to the protest camp Reddelich after meeting friends from Scotland, he was able to be more independent as more friends and English speaking activists were present there.
It was good however to have someone with me to discuss and evaluate events and actions with, and also someone who cared about me, like when I was caught up in the middle of the riot on Saturday or who sorted out technical problems like setting-up computers and internet connection on the Sunday, and who was helping me out when I forgot my passport and my press pass, and who helped me searching for my portemonnaie when I considered it lost in the portaloos and he also was a big emotional and psychological support when I felt stressed, tired and exhausted.
It would have been good to link up with Guy Smallman and Jason Parkinson, two other freelance journalists from London, who work in conjunction with Indymedia but also on a professional level. They also stayed at the same camp and reported from the main actions. When Jason got peppersprayed by the police, despite being officially and obviously accredited, he was grateful to be able to rely on Guy’s help. Guy, however, was famously injured at the Evian G8 protests in 2003, when a stun grenade nearly blew half his leg off. So it is good to work in a team of journalists who have similar aims, objectives and working patterns.
Another problem was that we were camping with the activists. Whilst we had unique insights into the action planning and motivations and social life of the protest movement, who often refused to speak to mainstream media, but were happy to talk to alternative and activist media because of our high level of accountability and understanding towards the protesters, we also shared the lack of electricity, bandwidth, work places at the indymedia tent. We also did share the lack of comfort, sleep, telephone and hot water, but luckily enough, this year there was no gastro-intestinal infection going round, like at the Gleneagles G8 at the Stirling campsite.
Camp Reddelich, Friday, 8.6.2007
We were nearly embedded with the activists, as of course, we were immersed in the atmosphere of the protest camp. Therefore, of course, we relied less on or not at all on the official sources, which was good in one way, as the police press speaker was nostalgically spreading lies a la real-existing socialism, which we of course immediately knew to be false, but which were often taken up by mainstream media unchecked.
Also, I did not get official accreditation, despite having a letter of assignment by the Big Issue Scotland. For this G8 summit, police and secret services denied accreditation to journalists without giving any reasons, on the Tuesday I heard in an interview that 40 journalists were denied the official accreditation and 29 further journalists got it revoked after already having received a positive decision. I did not get the accreditation because I was too late, despite having problems with their online accreditation system.
It was very good to have the car there and to be mobile and be independent of public transport, which was locked down on the Tuesday evening when Bush arrived. However, we were caught up in police road blockades several times, but once we’re able to circumvent these by driving through some field roads and along allotment sites in order to get back to the camp.
For reporting, the car was very important, because we could have gone almost anywhere at any time, whereas activist buses were held up by the police, such as on Tuesday afternoon, when the court decided that the blockade by the protesters at the airport Rostock-Laage would be limited to only 50 people, any big congregation of activist groups were basically held up and not allowed to pass.
Trains were also strictly controlled, especially before the summit at the borders, and some protesters were sent back or not allowed to enter Germany.
On the Saturday, there was also a slight train chaos, as trains were overcrowded and special trains not layed on as promised; the organisers of the big demonstration blamed the train company for a lower turnout of 80 000 demonstrators instead of the expected 100 000.
We took the train only once, in order to be able to attend the big demonstration, but we were caught up in the huge crowd in the newly renovated Rostock train station. I don’t know, who that idiot of an architect was, but he put in only one exit with a really small door, and it took about an hour till we made it from the platform to the meeting place. Apart from that, it could be a potential health and safety risk, this annoyed me greatly because it took valuable time away from reporting, listening to the rally speeches and picturing banners, costumes, street theatre, puppets and the whole colourful excitement.
On Saturday, we got up at about 6 am and left the convergence centre at 7am because it was so crowded we could hardly get any sleep. Originally we wanted to go to the Indymedia Centre but then ended up at the Rostock Camp instead, because the whole city centre was blocked off by police, and at this time I wasn’t yet confident enough to use my press pass to try to make it through the roadblocks with the car.
It was a good decision though as we were able to pitch our tent at the campsite, though there was a lack of parking spaces and we parked the car some distance away from all the other activist cars.
Thus left us later in fear that it might have been used as a burning barricade by some protesters after the rioting kicked off and the police responded with teargas and water cannons and then started to concentrate major police forces and water cannons at the Rostock campsite, suggesting an forthcoming raid in search of the Black Block.
My boyfriend taunted me the whole time on Saturday afternoon and evening, that I had turned down the extra insurance for 25 pounds to cover fire and theft on the continent, and just relied on third party.
Also, the car acted as a safe place for the electronic equipment, such as laptop, DV camera, minidisc and picture camera, not only to prevent it getting lost or stolen, but also to prevent damage because of rain, dirt or accidentally stepping, sitting or sleeping on it. Unfortunately the car did not protect it from heat, which caused the batteries to discharge quickly and seemed to be a contributing factor to sending my memorycard over the edge; it gave up working at first on Thursday morning, then after another attempt, it totally went on Friday afternoon, destroying the pictures accompanying my vox pops.
We had a lack of German mobile phones and a lack of access to telephones, so, therefore, we could not sell or market our work at the same day we produced it, which is very important for a freelance news reporter. So, whilst I was regularly sending in copy to the Big Issue Scotland, I was unable to contact other publishers or commit to more work on the spot, as I had planned before. Guy also suffered from this problem, as he did not sell any pictures. Jason however was able to sell some of his footage to More4 News, but he was in contact with them before coming here and basically spend many afternoons at their flat editing. What was disappointing though, was that they did not seem to help him out much financially or with equipment; he needed a tripod but they did not bother with supporting him, also they withheld basic media necessities such as DV tapes from him, though they had boxes full of these. Somehow, this is just stupid. I wonder if these „professionals“ considered that to „be objective“ by making life for freelancers associated with the protesters more difficult. But in the end, it was Jason who brought back the pictures of the police attacking him and other press people and activists with water cannons and pepper spray and batons; if Jason would not have got that powerful footage of this police attack from the Thursday at the West Gate, More4News would have only included an interview with a protester and pictures from the uneventfull East Gate blockade with police information, vastly distorting the reality of the events.
On Saturday afternoon, when the riot broke out, I tried to get some close-up pictures. I got really close to the action, even too close, and the resulting picture even did not look as close as I was at all. Despite of Cappa saying „If your pictures aren’t good enough, you are not close enough.“, it is also a matter of equipment. So my equipment is not good enough, and unfortunately, I can’t afford to upgrade at the moment without attempting to become a professional photographer. And then it would be difficult to sell enough pictures to justify the expenses, too, because of the satisfied market situation. It was very dissatisfying to be so close to the action in between the rioting stone-throwing, masked-up activists and the police forces and see the next day that the photographers sitting on top of the portaloos got better, more expressive and sharper close-ups with their long lenses than me, who was standing under a tree, luckily enough, nearly pissing myself, whilst the stones were raining down.
Saturday, 2nd of June 2007, Rostock Harbour.
I only wanted to get a picture or two of some stone-throwing, masked-up, more militant activists, but by the time in between pressing the button and taking the pictures, the protesters were running down the road and the police came running swinging their batons.
Luckily, someone pulled me nearly into, but at least very close and under the tree and amongst the shrubberies.
When I write, that I nearly pissed myself, then that’s true, but not so much out of fear, but because it was also the first day of my period. The same happened to me in Evian, and it’s so absolutely unpractical because apart from trying to observe what’s going on all the time at the demo, I was constantly on the look-out for the next toilet, which had long queues in front of it or was quite away from the action, I had the whole day strong abdominal pain. Also it was quite hot on Friday and Saturday night, I already felt additionally incredibly sticky, sweaty and smelly even without having my bloody pants full.
So in addition, for some strange reason, by the time I ended up under the tree, I had already removed my belt to ease the abdominal pain and the trousers were slipping whilst, I was running around the action.
Additionally, there were a lot of actions going on at the same time. As we were around the protesters all the time, we basically had the opportunity and the knowledge to be one of the few trusted journalists to be live on location when the most report-worthy and extraordinary actions happen. The 4.30am black block morning action for example was only publicised by word-of-mouth from one trusted activist to another, in the end it was not a particular successfull action, though some barricades were built by the protesters and some molotov-cocktails thrown in the direction of the approaching riot police.
I was the only obvious journalist there, and funnily enough, when I was waiting around for something to happen after the activists made off into the fields, there came a black-block type of „yellow paper“ journalist running around whilst asking everybody about what was going on and what had happened and if there was still something to photograph. It was very funny in the way that all his clothes were brand new, ironed and deepest black and tidy. He even had a sticker on „I prefer green to brown“, but he really would not have been able to fool any activist into believing he would be a comrade.
After Saturday the whole mainstream media was looking for the „Black Block“ and it was very amusing to listen to the radio and hear reports that they would be supposedly hiding in the forests, only to emerge to make trouble every now and again.
I am unsure why these lies were put out, and why the mainstream media repeated them. Some of the most astonishing fiction seemed to get produced during this summit by the police press officer in order to discredit the protesters, such as that the activists would try to blow up cars by stuffing potatoes in the exhausts of police vehicles, or an intention of using weapons such as razor blades in apples and potatoes or other fruits and vegetables. The clown army carried water pistols, as it was very hot, and the mainstream media put out the claims of the police press speakers that they would have filled these with chemical weapons. So, in return, the police made clowns drink the water from their water pistols.
Some of the mainstream media retracted these claims and excused themselves for publishing these, but most media outlets did not. Only a few of the media outlets actually investigated the claims further and found out that a lot of police statements put out were complete and utter lies, even though incredible obvious ones.
As this is very similar every time there is a protest, most activists do not like the mainstream media, do not want to talk to mainstream media journalists or be photographed or filmed. Journalists have also been accused to sell or supply the police with pictures and video footage of protesters during unlawful activities.
So, the activists started to attack the mainstream media and closed their public meetings to journalists. During the Saturday demonstrations, individuals out of the autonomous block attacked some mainstream, but also activist media, who were too much in their face. I guess the attack on the activist photographer was just a misunderstanding though I was a bit worried when taking pictures of the autonomous block, especially when my boyfriend jumped into the middle of it and urged me to take some holiday snaps.
I was really angry with myself for not having been able to get up on the bridge in time to take pictures of the whole demonstration from the start to finish and to photograph the various groups and blocks to document the march. The perspective would have been pretty good, but there were already a lot of mainstream media photographers stuffed on the best spots, and the autonomous block, who are not all anarchists, but especially in Germany also communists, attacked them with throwing stones and even some fireworks.
Well, at that moment I was actually quite happy to be smelly, ugly, dirty and sweaty and obviously camper and was proud to be trusted when so many other journalists were not.
Sometimes it is not quite sure why specific journalists were attacked, like the activist journalist, but he was wearing pretty clean clothes and had an expensive camera with a big lense, also he obviously was interested to photograph the whole autonomous black block and not just one picture, but he took a whole series of not only the demo but also focused on particular individuals, which provoked suspicion and discomfort.
And I am not sure if some of the journalist attackers were just testosterone-driven militant macho activists in their early twenties, like the usual stone-throwers, or if they even were agent provocateurs undercover for the police, such as were later in the week discovered during the blockades and returned to the police, when they were trying to instigate violence at the fence in order for police to have a reason to attack the sit-in protest and clear the road.
One particular impressive event was when one or two black blocker were leaving the autonomous block, running uphill towards and through some mainstream media and attacked one specific mainstream media camera team. Like there were about twenty, thirty journalists and fifty more on the bridge just behind, and these masked-up demonstrators were actually running THROUGH the crowd of journalists to attack a specific cameraman. I have never seen something like this, and it makes me a bit suspicious of what I have seen is that obviously true than it seems at first sight because it is so unusual and unlogical and doesn’t make any sense.
Interestingly, all the journalists in that crowd seem to throw themselves desperately out of the way, apparently in order to be able to JUST observe and not make the action. They seemed to be very keen to avoid getting involved, but am sure they lost their objectivity towards the autonomous protesters nevertheless. Sometimes I wonder why journalists don’t get involved when it is more in the interest of the truth.
Later on at the riots at the harbour, I saw a TV broadcasting van from the German news channel N24 which looked as if it had been smashed up a little bit with a huge hole in two of its windows. I was later on told by protesters, that N24 was considered to be the news channel that put out most of the negative coverage about the protesters, and a lot of unconfirmed rumours and police lies.
Saturday, 2nd of June 2007, Rostock Harbour.
The thing is, that there was a huge hype in the media before the G8 summit about the forthcoming protests, and the Saturday demonstration would be a big foundation stone about the decisions of the constitutional court on which demonstrations and protests to allow in the next days.
On the other hand, I was told by activist friends from Nuremberg, that a lot of protesters only made it to the Saturday demonstration because of work and other commitments.
- ) Reflection on Structure and Organisation
After talking to my supervisor Mark Meredith after returning from the G8 summit, I realised that I had some topic problems, because there were just too many ideas piling up for the dissertation, especially as the G8 summit was such an exciting adventure.
It seemed quite difficult to decide if to stick with the original plan to investigate alternative media in Scotland or to focus on reporting the G8 summit or mix both into one.
As it was already the middle of June, and I had still not decided on the structure and content of the dissertation, I realised I had a lack of time and some timetable issues as August is already booked for festival reviews and my holidays clashing with the hand-in date of the dissertation, which basically only left July to focus on the dissertation.
I also tried to be innovative with format and layout in my work, but then regrettably read in the Production Dissertation Handbook, that double-spacing, and one sided A4 only with a font size of 12 points is regulated. Originally I would have wanted to experiment with various layouts such like producing a magazine-like or newspaper-similar style.
It was good to have regular meetings with my supervisor, but in our enthusiasm, we had both so many ideas that it seemed occasionally more confusing than sorting out issues, but the meetings were always very motivating and encouraging, which I really like, and which was one of my reasons for opting in the end for a production dissertation.
Academic or Production Dissertation?
Both dissertation categories, academic and production, strongly appealed to me and I had great difficulties to decide which one to do. My topic about alternative media seemed pretty strong from the beginning onwads and as Chris Atton is the specialist regarding radical and alternative media, I would have been really keen to read up more of the academic background research and compare it with my practical experiences. The academic dissertation also has the advantage that the format, style, basic content, timetable, research is quite regulated and as limiting as it might feel it is also an extremely good guidance on how to approach, progress and build up the dissertation, which I regrettably occasionally missed when I got lost too much in various potential ideas for the production dissertation.
In the end, the production dissertation offered the advantage that my visit to the anti-G8 protests in Germany could build a much bigger part of the more practical dissertation, that my longterm aim of producing an alternative media directory for Scotland would be better served with a production dissertation and that this format also is more flexible. I also missed in the end too many lectures of Chris Atton, and hardly any of my collegues was interested in doing a conventional dissertation, so I could not get any copies or comparison of work stages. Also with a conventional dissertation I would have to stay the whole summer in and around the library for my literature review, and at that time in spring I still believed the summer to be actually hot and exciting and not that rainy and wet.
- Reflection on Professional Issues
A lot of protesters did not want to give their full names, location, age and profession but either gave pseudonyms or their first name, as they did not want to be identified. Quite often, the underlying reasons were not the opinions given, which were not that controversial and which they would have been happy to be held accountable and responsible for, but the fear of possible follow-up repression by authorities.
Before the summit, the Schengen agreement on free movement in the European Union was suspended, and activists turned away at the borders and not allowed to enter Germany to protest against the G8.
Blacklists of protesters are held by police, and individuals had their passports taken away so they were unable to travel to the protests, and there were also reports about pre-emptive detention of some known activists in advance of the summit.
This was also the main reason that protesters did not want to be photographed – either individually or as in the Rostock Camp, collectively, as this campsite upheld a total ban on taking pictures. This is also the main reason on activists masking up at demonstrations, or often a function of banners at marches.
Saturday, 2nd of June 2007, Rostock demonstration.
The mainstream media was also not allowed to leave their allocated area at the Reddelich campsite, which was near the information tent and the camp’s press and media group.
Often, the mainstream media tries to separate the movement into „good“ and „bad“ protesters, as the older pacifists have never had problems with being classified as the latter category, they were quite happy to give their full names.
Other reasons for not giving names was the wish of activists to not be recognized by work mates and family. In Germany in particular, a law is still upheld that civil servants, such as teachers, lawyers and other state or council employees are not allowed to be engaged in activities that oppose the state in any way, so persons identified as communists, anarchists, socialists, protesters, activists or anti-fascists will not be employed.
Especially now with the Internet, which allows data-mining of personal information, and the newspaper archiving their reports for generations to come, activists have become more cautious towards the mainstream and the activist media.
This is also particularly important for activists when they apply for new jobs, as social movements are also linked to increased union activity and ethical campaigns against injustices. In the neoliberal, globalised world, these attributes are nowadays more often seen by company executives as trouble-making rather than positive contributions.
Most activists also don’t trust the papers to properly report what you say, one of the most vivid examples was the misquotation of Walden Bello (?????) at the Saturday rally during the riots, where some papers suggested he would have even contributed to the escalation of the riot.
Sometimes, attribution would be refused when there is a danger of self-incrimination or increased attention by authorities likely to follow.
Before the police started to videotape demonstrations and observe marches with an „Evidence Gathering Team“ (Scotland) or „Forward Intelligence Team“ (London, Met), journalists were also accused of selling or providing material for criminal investigations. Specifically, footage from the BBC and ITV was beschlagnahmt ?????? obtained with warrants) in regards to the G8 2005 investigations into the „Carnival for full enjoyment“ and the following riots in George and Rose Street in Edinburgh.
Pressure from information providers.
In regards to protesters, I did not realise any general pressure to report in a particular way, but when I was helping out with the mainstream media briefing, I realised, that some journalists were very annoyed with not being allowed to film, photograph or snoop around in the whole of the protest camp at Reddelich, and were just restricted to the information zone.
I personally did not have any problems with this limitation to photography and filming, because as I was camping there, I could go anywhere, and it is still possible to hold interviews with other protesters via minidisc and if you wait for a suitable time and atmosphere and respect the individuals’ wishes for privacy, it is usually okay to film and photograph at certain times, but you should know the movement really well to know what and when and ow is appropriate.
A fellow Indymedia UK volunteer hold me to account though for the story I wrote about the 4.30 am outing of the autonomous failed black block action. „It sounds exactly as what the mainstream media reports“, he said. „like with Molotov Cocktails and barricades and stone-throwing and then that the Black Block would then hideout in the woods. What agenda are you driving at?“
And I responded angrily „well, that was exactly how it was! I am not lying!“
Only later on we discovered, that there was another peaceful march leaving from nearby the camp Reddelich from Bad Doberan to re-enforce a blockade at the fence exactly to where the Black Block as heading, and there was a slight mix-up.
The other problem seemed to be, that, because the Black Block action was publicised by word-of-mouth only, and because of the many locations of the protesters and Indymedia centres, not everybody knew of the state of discussions and various autonomously hatched plans.
Another contributing factor to the communication failure was the lack of computers and there wasn’t any internet access point at Rostock Camp until we helped the French squatters building it up on Sunday, and there wasn’t much support given by the main indymedia core of volunteers who either stayed at the Convergence Centre or at the Frieda Indymedia Centre.
Unfortunately, the „Handwerkers“, tradesmen, who built up a lot of the infrastructure, did not want to talk to me. They were exhausted by the number of interviews they were asked to give, and also they felt pressured from their trade association to disconnect the profession from the protests.
There was some talk about the police trying to clear the area at the blockades from journalists when they wanted to attack the sit-in demonstration with water cannons and pepper spray. As the journalists refused, they declared they could not take on any responsibilities for any injuries occuring. Consequently, police did not take any care to not injure journalists, and partly directly targetted journalists, as was Jason and one dpa journalist nearly lost his eyesight with getting the water of the water cannon in his eye.
Dave, from the conscious clubbing collective, insisted on buying me a beer, and as he was skint, I was insisting on buying him one, too. In my opinion, it turned into the best and longest and most insightful interview of the whole G8 summit, because it took place in such a relaxed atmosphere, and on a very equal basis, and it seemed to me that we were even becoming friends over that interview. Though he still told me the most intriguing influences on his life when the recording equipment was switched off, mainly that he left the army and became an activist after he had a heart attack and reflected on his life in hospital.
The Black Block protesters did not threaten me at the Saturday or Thursday marches all, but then I respected their wishes not to photograph them in particular situations. And my camera was obviously a bit crap, too, and I did not videotape anything because it would have been just too much multi-tasking and it is very work-intensive and of no use to this dissertation.
The biggest pressure from information providers was used in my opinion by the authorities, such as the official accreditation process, which did exclude some supposedly left-wing journalists or journalists who previously reported critically about the G8 summit from the privileges of being accredited. All journalists were vetted by the police who on request for information of the reasons to withhold accreditation blamed the German secret services called „Verfassungsschutz“. I was really keen to try out if I would get accredited, but it was too late in the end, as it took me a while to get a letter of assignment, and all my numbers of NUJ membership, passport, and then could not find out my login to the special accreditation registering a website and it did not allow me to restart the process.
However, I was very pissed off that the journalists I asked to take out a program for me out of the press centre so I could at least find out what I was missing and get some free mainstream newspapers, were hindered to do so by the security guards at the press centre.
Also there was definitely a lack of accountability of the police forces and authorities, particularly when it came to prove and back up claims either made in press releases or verbally.
The only time I felt pressured by protesters was at Bollhagen, when the food kitchen was not allowed to reach the sit-in demonstration in the evening as the police did not allow any more people to the protest site. As a journalist, I was allowed to pass, but had to leave my friends behind, who did not have a press pass. At the blockade, there was a building site and a tap with water, it was very hot. When we returned to the police blockade in the nearby village, where most of the mainstream media was waiting in the only little hotel on scene to do their live broadcasts, the food kitchen approached us and was pressuring us to facilitate their passage through the blockade. Ultimately, we were not able to effectively help them, so they told us a lot of exaggerated information, which I now believe to be untrue, factual propaganda. At the scene I was not sure if it was true or not so I went to investigate some of them – the food kitchen people told us that the police would not let the ambulances through to the protesters, so I went to the ambulances at the scene and asked them if it was true. They say it wasn’t, they were told that their superior did not allow them to go any further, because he feared there would be a security risk arising for his employees.
The food kitchen people also said there would not be any water accessible to the protesters, I asked them about the tap and they said the police had closed it now, which I believed to be untrue, as it was an open building site, and I don’t think the police would be able to interfere with the water supply without getting the owners permission, which seemed to be difficult to get. Also, some of the neighbours seemed to support the protesters and some of the mainstream media a little bit, so they might have provided water if the police would try to withhold water from the demonstrators, like they did in Evian.
Anyways I found the police press person and asked him about why they did not let food and water through to the protesters and if they closed access to the water and he was squirming away, later that evening I heard that the food kitchen was eventually let through, as the protesters went around the police blockades through the fields and behind local residents’ back gardens.
I reported the incident of the food kitchen not being allowed through to the blockades, and several activist friends filled up their rucksacks with water and food to hike to the blockades through the fields and support the sit- and overnight sleep-in protest. On return, they told me that, when they arrived they found hat there was no problem anymore with the food and water supplies as food kitchen were finally allowed through the police stops, and they were a bit annoyed with the information provided on the indymedia website being out-of-date, but I could only respond that it was true at the time when we were there.
It is important, but undervalued, during reporting news, summits, protests and actions at foreign destinations to sleep every night, even if it is only a few hours. There often is a climate of importance attached to how long you have gone without sleep at a summit, but this is an illusion – more often people get emotional, paranoid, confused, and become a burden and a security risk as they can not focus anymore and therefore are not able to work and help, because of their inability to act reliably, responsibly or rational, which is important under pressure and at stressful times.
For these reasons it is also important to work in teams, to have working, fully charged and credited mobile phones with you, and always have the press card and ID on your body.
It would be preferable to have a mobile phone with internet access, SMS and email facilities as well as abilities to take pictures, sometimes it is good to be able to file important issues on the spot.
It is of advantage to have regular daily meetings, discussing assignments and arrange phone-ins from on location. That ensures that you have some back-up if the situation escalates, who will enquire about you and care for you if anything would happen.
For this case, and also for any other incidents of repressions, like not getting accreditation, getting pepper-sprayed by police or arrested or equipment confiscated, it is also advisable to take contact emails and telephone numbers of your journalist union and your media outlets and other media contacts, also to be able to sell your coverage.
For riot situations, it is good to have a bicycle helmet to protect from baton charges or raining stones when filming or photographing close-up and waterproof clothes and plastic rucksack with dry clothes for water cannon situations. Some water protection for the camera is advisable and so is insurance – both health insurance and insurance for the technical equipment. Although a physical seperation from protesters should help not to be attacked, it can not always be avoided.
A first-aid kit and lots of water and some food should also be taken, because the blockades were sometimes quite a long way distanced from shops or food kitchens, and actions might go on for a long time.
Official accreditation is recommendable, as it provides some assurance that the police have to recognize your journalist status. However, the provision of working space, company of other journalists and the comfortabilities provided at the press centre might change the style of reporting.
If you look like a normal tourist, an activist and a press person at the same time and are able to adapt to a situation quickly, it saves time and avoids problems and confrontations.
It also is of advantage to know the locations, speak the local language and to know the country, the law and procedures and state of discussions.
NUJ press card
I am very proud of my National Union of Germany NUJ press card, although they made a mistake and put the wrong gender on it, which seems to confuse everybody. Some policemen in Germany however did not know the NUJ and became a bit suspicious about it, so it might make sense to get another one, the IFJ one is nicely red and more impressive actually and provoked better responses and acceptance.
It was very helpful to get through police barriers and ensured that I was neither arrested nor searched and I could hold police accountable, especially the press officer, which I greatly enjoyed. However, the police did insist that the NUJ press card would only be accepted by showing the passport at the same time.
The NUJ press pass helped when the police stopped and searched all cars from camp Reddelich on Thursday, especially as I forgot the car papers in the tent.
When I was running around with the black block on Thursday morning, it also ensured I would not get any police hassle.
Apart from the already published reports about the G8 in Germany in the Big Issue Scotland, on my personal blog and on Indymedia, Vox Pops and the whole length of the interviews could be featured in liberal newspapers and magazines, such as either a series of articles or features on individuals and their associated groups and projects in The New Internationalist, Red Pepper, The Morning Star, The Big Issue, closer to the time, as well as The Guardian and The Independent might have been interested. Much easier is coverage in the activist and alternative press outlets such as SchNews, Freedom, The Weekly Worker and similar.
Outlets in books about the G8 and social movements are also frequently published by Verso, AKPress, Pluto Press and Zed Books.