Updated: Monday, 10th August 2020 @ 12:42pm

‘The most dangerous place I’ve been is Burnley!’ Manchester-based photographer to snap war-torn Iraq

‘The most dangerous place I’ve been is Burnley!’ Manchester-based photographer to snap war-torn Iraq

By Alex Morrisey

An Iraq bound Manchester-based photographer admits his New Year assignment to the Kurdistan region will be his toughest challenge yet.

Jacob Russell, 28, will travel to the north of the country next week to work for a press agency and undertake freelance work in the war-torn area.

Although he will be working in dangerous conditions, Mr Russell said he is looking forward to it and joked that the most dangerous place he has been to date is probably Burnley.

He said: “I've wanted to work in a more testing environment for a while and this seems like a good introduction to the region.”

Mr Russell, who was born in Peterborough, is travelling to the Middle East at a dangerous time for the press.

In the first ten months of last year more than 100 journalists died at the hands of criminals and hostile states in prompting an inter-agency United Nations meeting November.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, told the Vienna conference last year: “They aim to silence the journalist and by extension, all of us.”

In response the 15 United Nations bodies who attended the meeting vowed to raise awareness, help governments develop protection laws and providing conflict safety training for journalists.

These will be rolled out comprehensively in Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, South Sudan and Latin America.

Mr Russell said: “It would be fantastic if journalists could be protected somehow but it seems so unrealistic.

“In Syria the state has been accused of deliberately targeting Syrian and western journalists to limit coverage of the conflict.”

He added: “I think freedom of speech and freedom of the press is extremely important.  

“If journalists are specifically targeted, especially by the state, because of the stories they are covering or the material they are putting out then that is a suppression of those freedoms.”

Despite this he also believes that journalists who chose to enter a war zone do so at their own risk.

He said: “When a person goes to a dangerous place when they're not obliged to I don't think they can ask for laws to protect them over and above the people who are there despite wanting to be anywhere else in the world.

“Kurdistan is a lot more secure than most of Iraq and I don’t have many concerns about security in the immediate area.”

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Photo courtesy of Kurdistan Photo كوردستان, with thanks.