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Kurdish Journalists, Embedded With Peshmerga, Live-Stream Mosul Battle


Kurdish journalists are getting close-up views of the battle for Mosul. They're embedded with both the Kurdish fighters known as the peshmerga and Iraqi forces, and they've been live-streaming the fight against ISIS online. Recently, a crew from the network Rudaw came under attack live on the air. Among those watching was head of digital media Hemin Lihony.

HEMIN LIHONY: An ISIS car bomb picked a group of peshmerga soldier as a target and drove to them very fast, full speed. We were glued to the screen, wondering if we were going to see this death of our own colleagues live on the TV.

MONTAGNE: That vehicle was destroyed, hit by a rocket before it reached its target or those journalists. Broadcasting live on Facebook is not new. The social network pays NPR for videos we produce, for example. But Lihony says the tool is allowing Rudaw to be more nimble on the battlefield.

LIHONY: For the live-stream, I can see we have two cameramen. We have sent them to the battlefield from different fronts. We keep in touch with them. When they see bombing or a big smoking, when they see airstrikes, they just call us and they inform us to be ready to go live. We give instant access to everyone to watch the battle live and they have their feeling at the same time - sad faces, like, dislike.

MONTAGNE: Well, definitely I - sounds right that it's the first time anybody has been reacting to these kinds of scenes with emojis. Does it strike you at all as strange given the seriousness of the subject matter?

LIHONY: Of course. We have to tell people welcome to the new world of technology. We have to get used to it. We have to study it. And also there are some families. They are watching our live-stream. They care about their sons and daughters who are now fighting, and they want to see them because we interview the peshmerga and the fighters. Reporters ask them how are the battle, and some of them their colleagues killed in the battle. It is really very tragedy and very, very sad moments sometimes. It's very hurting.

MONTAGNE: But you don't show all of that it doesn't seem like.

LIHONY: Of course, no, no, we monitor it.

MONTAGNE: Right. So then, I mean, there is a limit. I mean, certainly to the - although I've seen bodies.

LIHONY: Yeah, as I said, they are disadvantage to live-streaming. You have to ensure that the content does not include graphic footage of militants, yeah, injured soldiers because we don't know who is watching actually and how old they are and where they are from. This mean our team member are constantly monitoring the live-stream, and they do actually, to ensure it's stopped when needed.

MONTAGNE: You know, because it's new - it's a new kind of coverage, obviously you're feeling your way through this. You got some pushback...


MONTAGNE: ...For some coverage that you sent out a drone video following peshmerga convoy outside of Mosul. And people were saying, what do you want, to get the peshmerga killed? Like, that you were helping ISIS unintentionally.

LIHONY: Actually, the drone footage, it was after the battle, not at the same time. Peshmerga went this villages and they controlled all of them. It's not close to the ISIS.

MONTAGNE: So you were in what you might call friendly territory when you took these photographs. So there was no question of them being used for an attack.

LIHONY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. With - this is work of media, to show everything. I think it's quite ironic that of course Islamic State uses the platforms such as Twitter and Facebook - yeah? - to make their cause known to recruit jihadis. Now, the irony is here that we are using the same platforms to ultimately degrade and humiliate this extremist group.

MONTAGNE: That's Hemin Lihony with the Kurdish news network Rudaw. He joined us via Skype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.