Part 2 of our focus on press freedom features must-watch docs on journalists under threat.
This week, we continue our focus on the free press. A vital part of democracy, many of us have come to take press freedom for granted, but around the world, in varying ways, journalists are being vilified, discredited, silenced, incarcerated and even killed.
Here, we’ve gathered together a list of must-watch docs on journalists under threat, all available to watch online. We include tributes to the lives of war correspondents and photojournalists, as well as digging into citizen journalism in countries where the official media is controlled by the state.
We start with Tom Heinemann’s 40 minute online doc Courage – Journalism is Not a Crime.
Heinemann’s film meets three international, investigative journliasts fighting for their freedom of expression under pressure from governments, companies and criminals: Erdem Gul in Turkey, Emin Huseynov in Azerbaijan and Lawi Weng in Myanmar.
His website also hosts twelve interviews with experts on investigative journalism and human rights.
Under The Wire / Chris Martin / UK / 2018 / 93 mins
On 13 February 2012, two journalists entered war-ravaged Syria. One of them was acclaimed Sunday Times war correspondent, Marie Colvin, known for her fearless journalism. The other was her colleague, photographer Paul Conroy. Their aim was to cover the plight of Syrian civilians trapped in Homs, a city under siege and relentless military attack from the Syrian army. Only one of them returned.
Told through footage from the scene, clips from live television and recent accounts, this is the story of Paul and Marie’s fateful mission, and the horrors of the Syrian war that they bore witness to.
You can watch this film on Amazon Prime.
Jim: The James Foley Storey / Brian Oakes / USA / 2016 / 113 mins
Jim takes us from small-town New England to the adrenaline-fueled front lines of Libya and Syria, where photojournalist James (Jim) Foley pushed the limits of danger to report on the plight of civilians impacted by war.
On Thanksgiving Day 2012, Jim Foley was kidnapped in Syria and went missing for two years. Thrown into a world of false leads and misinformation, the Foley family was threatened with prosecution by the U.S. government if they paid a ransom.
In Oakes’s gut-wrenching film, Foley’s family, friends, and fellow journalists tell Jim’s story, while his fellow hostages reveal the details of captivity with chilling immediacy.
You can watch this film on HBO.
City of Ghosts / Matthew Heineman / USA / 2017 / 92 mins
When their city was taken over by ISIS in 2014, a group of anonymous Syrian activists banded together under the name ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’ and dedicated themselves to getting the word out to the world through social media.
Award-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land) follows these citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives to expose the horrors of life under ISIS rule.
You can watch the film on Amazon Prime.
Which Way is the Frontline From Here? / Sebastian Junger / USA / 2013 / 78 mins
An award-winning war photojournalist and filmmaker, Tim Hetherington was considered by many to be one of the most impactful visual artists of recent times. At 40 years old and after years of covering conflicts from Liberia to Afghanistan he met his untimely death from a mortar blast in Libya in 2011.
Through interviews with family and friends, personal footage, and Hetherington’s unique archive of visual imagery, Sebastian Junger pays fitting tribute to a respected friend and colleague.
You can watch the film on Amazon Prime.
High Tech Low Life / Stephen Maing / USA / 2012 / 88 mins
Vegetable seller ‘Zola’ and bicycle-riding activist ‘Tiger Temple’ are two of China’s first Citizen Reporters. Using laptops, mobiles and digital cameras to bypass the strict codes of conventional Chinese media the two risk political persecution to give first-hand, unmediated accounts of untold stories from around China.
A fascinating portrait of news-gathering in the 21st century, High Tech, Low Life is also the story of two people fuelled by idealism, all the while struggling to reconcile an evolving sense of individualism, social responsibility and personal sacrifice.
War Feels Like War / Esteban Manzanares Uyarra / UK / 2003 / 59 mins
A compelling account of the brutalities of 21st Century war, told through the eyes of independent journalists.
Esteban Uyarra’s film documents the lives of reporters and photographers who subverted military media controls to get access to the real Iraq War.
Nobody Speak / Brian Knappenberger / USA / 2017 / 95 mins
When Hulk Hogan sued the online outlet Gawker for releasing a sex tape, it opened a can of worms concerning the limits of the First Amendment.
Hogan’s case is only the beginning of filmmaker Brian Knappenberger’s dive into the urgent threat to the freedom of the press and the sinister forces behind the public’s changing relationship to the media.
Revealing the murky truth behind the high-stakes cases being bankrolled by billionaires with their own agenda, Nobody Speak is a shocking look inside the David and Goliath battle being fought over free speech in America.
Watch this film on Netflix.
Panorama: The Khashoggi Murder Tapes / Producer Alys Cummings / UK / 2019 / 29 mins
BBC’s Panorama investigates the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2019.
When it transpired that the consulate had been bugged by Turkish intelligence, devastating audio recordings came to light that revealed a partial picture of what happened behind closed doors.
Reporter Jane Corbin speaks to two of the few people who have listened to the tapes, and pieces together the events leading to Khashoggi’s assassination, and the cover up that followed.
Watch this film on the BBC iPlayer.