Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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United Nations Cinema: Under The Wire

On the 8th March 2019, United Nations Cinema screened Under The Wire in partnership with The British Museum in London to mark International Women's Day.

Under The Wire tells the story of war-correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy who entered war-ravaged Syria to cover the plight of civilians trapped in the besieged city of Homs. Only one of them returned. Based on Conroy’s book, Under the Wire, the film is a gripping account of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.

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A discussion followed the screening with: Chris Martin, director of the film; Paul Conroy, Under The Wire photojournalist; Jackie Harrison, UNESCO Chair on Media Freedom, Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity; and moderator Deborah Seward, Director of UNRIC Western Europe. The conversation focused on the importance of accuracy in journalism, bearing witness, and getting the story out.

The importance of telling good stories in journalism must not be forgotten. Deborah Seward stated that “It’s important to source news and continue to ask questions: that's the essence of journalism. Ask questions because that will lead to the truth.” Jackie Harrison added "Accuracy and sincerity go hand in hand to get to truthfulness, which might change over time. That's what journalism is all about. It doesn't bleach out the humanity, so that you make it cold and dispassionate.”

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The film shows that good journalism has no shortcuts. “This is bearing witness. That’s what really smart, accurate and sincere journalism does. and it can get you killed,” Jackie Harrison said. “Journalists are dying all around the world in different settings - this is their plight and it shouldn't be forgotten.” Director Chris Martin said that it’s a difficult, but powerful film to watch. “Going through the footage was not nice, some of the footage was a lot worse than what was used in the film. But I don't think we're the ones traumatised by it, it's the people it's happening to that are the most traumatised by it.”

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“The people with the least voice are the ones affected the most. Bring those stories out and hopefully you can make a difference,” said Paul Conroy, who received a standing ovation from a full house of 360 people at The British Museum.

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Leaving Homs, he was determined to continue telling the story. “I never felt that assignment ended. I made a promise in the tunnel, that I'd get out and tell the story. It's the best we can all do: to tell the story.”

For the handout, click here.

To see pictures from the evening, click here.

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