Roughly two weeks ago VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky was captured, held hostage and manhandled by pro-Russian separatists in the town of Sloviansk. His coverage of the conflict has attracted millions of views for VICE News on YouTube, and separatists finally snapped.
This is the sort of raw and daring journalism the fairly new VICE News operation has quickly become known for, establishing itself firmly as a “fast-turnaround” new media outlet for the YouTube generation. You won’t see this kind of reporting on the 6 o’clock news.
Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine
VICE News coverage of the Ukraine crisis serves as somewhat of a video timeline of events that have seen Eastern Europe erupt into conflict. Various journalists have been covering the violence since early March, with Simon Ostrovsky’s footage providing an unbeatable up-close and personal look into life in a country torn apart by politics. You can watch them all by clicking play on the playlist, above.
Of the footage so far, some of the most illuminating moments include the video above which shows the storming of a police station by separatists in Horlivka; in which Simon follows protesters into the building as the police within attempt to negotiate a safe escape.
Also of note is an interview with Simon himself after being detained for four days, in which he goes into detail about the conditions he was kept under, the physical abuse he endured and the spontaneous nature of his release.
Caracas has an even higher murder rate than Baghdad, and escalating crime rates have led to civil unrest among both students and other political groups. VICE News’ coverage demonstrates how quickly a simple protest in Venezuela can escalate into violent unrest as police struggle to control angry demonstrators.
The latest of these films (at the time of publishing) shows a country somewhat divided, with a big military display of force and patriotism, followed by failed “negotiations” with police that ends up in a cloud of tear gas and a hail storm of rocks.
Syria’s Unending Rebel Conflict
Coverage of the bloody war still raging in Syria appears to have dropped off the radar for most major news outlets, but the conflict is now three years old and still rages on. The video above provides a glimpse of the unrest into which the country has descended, with various groups fighting among themselves for small gains in territory at massive cost to human life.
This documentary contains some graphic footage that some viewers may find disturbing, but that shows the true extent of the horrors still taking place (largely unreported) in Syria.
Last Chance High
Chicago is the murder capital of the United States, suffering from serious economic hardship, an out of control drug problem and an increasing number of young children getting involved in gangs and violence. For many, expulsion means falling deeper into the cracks – cementing a life spent in and out of prison, or worse as a statistic in a news report.
Last Chance High follows the Moses Montefiore Academy, Chicago’s only “therapeutic” school in the public system. They take in students that have been kicked out of other schools for aggressive behaviour, and offer another chance at education.
That’s a second chance that’s desperately needed by many, with most of Chicago’s murder victims being children between the ages of 12 and 18.
Violence & Private Security in South Africa
Another film that’s as interesting as it is infuriating is this recent production about South Africa’s booming private security sector. On recent visits to South Africa I saw the extent of barbed wire, electric fences and widespread poverty first hand, and in this VICE News documentary the crew travels into some “no-go” areas I was personally warned against – notably Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain.
The disparity between wealth and poverty is on clear display here, with residents of impoverished areas paid a meagre wage to protecting some of the Western Cape’s most desirable neighbourhoods. All this, in a country where the money spent on private security exceeds that of the government’s police and military budget.
VICE on HBO
To kickstart the channel’s coverage, and to probably encourage a few subscribes, VICE decided to upload the first season of their VICE on HBO TV show, which tackles a huge number of topics from child suicide bombers to escaping North Korea’s hermit kingdom.
It’s a bit more “dressed up” for TV than the raw nature of some of their produced-for-web films, but there’s plenty of interesting coverage here to sink your teeth into.
Don’t forget to subscribe to VICE News on YouTube, as well as catching up with the latest written and photographic reports on news.vice.com. You should also check out the similar style of reporting, documentaries and sub-culture over at VICE if these films are your kind of YouTube. Let us know if you’ve got any favourite VICE News moments or coverage in the comments below.