Category Archives: censorship

capa, soltan, and the shots heard around the world

PDNPulse went and drew a parallel I was waiting for someone to draw — the video of young Neda Soltan and Robert Capa's famous photo, "The Falling Soldier," taken during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

On Saturday, a shocking video of a young woman bleeding to death appeared on social networking sites.

Anonymous and impossible to trace, the clip went viral with a story attached: The woman is Neda, an opposition protester in Iran, who was gunned down by a government sniper Saturday on the streets of Tehran. We don't know how much of this is true. There is no way to verify even basic information about the video. But the clip proved too strong to be bogged down by fact-checking. The witnesses heard in the clip express shock, then desperation, then utter helplessness, passing through an emotional arc in 40 seconds. A viewer can't help but imagine being there, powerless to do anything other than keep the camera on.

"Neda" quickly hopped from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter to blogs to mainstream media. Even "The Today Show" aired part of it this morning. A still from the video appears above the fold on the front of The Wall Street Journal today.

Above, we've placed a frame grab from the video alongside Robert Capa's "The Falling Soldier," the most famous moment-of-death image in photography. Are we overreaching in comparing the two?

Consider the similarities. Like "Neda," the 1936 image "The Falling Soldier" stands as a timeless symbol of war, even as scholars keep debating what it actually shows. In 1936 armed conflict was a soldier falling in a field. Today it's a civilian felled in an urban clash.

Both images signify the emergence of a new type of wartime reporting. Today, a 40-second clip shot on a tiny camera or cell phone can go online in minutes, and be influencing worldwide opinion within hours. The more significant it is, the more people will share it, and the faster it will spread.

It's significant that the Nada clip is from the viewpoint of a participant in the conflict, not a journalist. Last week, Iranian authorities tried to censor coverage of the protests by essentially banning the press. That situation incubated a powerful new kind of social reporting, one that more closely resembles folklore than the cautious tones and editorial review of traditional journalism.

Link to PDNPulse article, with updates.

Of course, images have the power to change the world.


It probably won't be up for long (violence, murder, copyright violations, etc) but this video is worth watching. Warning, video contains graphic scenes of violence and the final moments of Neda Agha Soltan, the young Iranian woman murdered by basiji militiaman.

If you'd rather not view the video, this CS Monitor article covers it rather well.

The student rembembered, Neda Agha Soltan, was reportedly shot in the chest by a basiji militiaman passing on a motorcycle. Graphic Internet video of the aftermath has turned her into an instant icon of the movement lead by defeated moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

A Facebook page titled "Angel of Iran" has been created to honor her. Authorities forbade a memorial service on Sunday. Mr. Mousavi – who has not been seen since Thursday – urged his followers late Sunday to keep up the pressure.

lens on tehran: an interview with newsha tavakolian

From the Lens comes On Assignment: Covering Tehran, by David W. Dunlap. This interview with photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian is a fascinating story of a young female photographer trying to cover a very rapidly developing story in a male-dominated country and profession.

[Update: link repaired]

remembering tiananmen

I can't believe it’s been twenty years since the Tiananmen massacre. How clearly I remember sitting in my little brick house on Mary Ann Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side, packing my suitcase and preparing to drive to DC to visit my girlfriend, when across the television screen comes CNN’s amazing coverage of the Chinese government’s crackdown. Over the next few days, as stories and photos, and eventually video leaked out, the whole world was able to see what happened.

Tiananmen was a social uprising. And this week, its 20th anniversary, we see the Chinese government blocking Flickr and Facebook and Myspace and Twitter and so many other social networking sites. One has to wonder how long such censoring can effectively continue. Social movements can do amazing things, very quickly. You only need to look a few months after Tiananmen to see the success of the crowds in bringing down the Berlin Wall beginning on November 9, 1989.

That first week of June, 1989, was a sad week. Let’s hope that as our collective connectivity grows, we will both never forget and never go back. David Rothkopf, writing in Foreign Policy, can close this post with this quote:

…thanks to the economic growth in the country and concurrent revolutions in information technology, individual Chinese are better informed. Further, thanks to the rise of the country's private sector, its growing integration with the global economy and the personal growth of the average citizen, the Chinese people are today part of a rapidly changing political fabric. Whether that fabric must be rent in order to fulfill the dreams that were articulated by those students in that square two decades ago is unclear. But what is absolutely certain is that during the intervening years, that shared secret has not died. In fact, it is no longer a very well kept secret. But because it is so widely shared, it remains one that is so powerful that it is almost certainly of greater significance to China's future than it is to its past.