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Matinee: Daniel Berehulak Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

15 July 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 196th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Daniel Berehulak presents They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals.

Daniel Berehulak is a native of Sydney, Austrailia. But he gets around. As an award-winning photojournalist, he's covered war and disaster in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, plus Saddam Hussein's trial, child labor in India, the Ebola breakout in West Africa, the tsunami in Japan and the Chernobyl disaster.

And those awards include the Pulitzer Prize, five World Press Photo awards, two Photographer of the Year awards from Pictures of the Year International, the John Faber award from the Overseas Press Club and, just recently, the Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism from the Los Angeles Press Club.

He grew up on a farm and worked at his father's refrigeration company because his Ukrainian parents didn't consider photography to be a way to make a living. But when he graduated from college with a degree in history, he started shooting sports and in 2002 freelanced for Getty Images doing just that in Sydney. By 2005 he worked for Getty in London and later in New Delhi as a staff news photographer.

They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals tells the story of his latest work, focusing on the death squads of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that have murdered some 9,000 of their countrymen.

How did Berehulak get involved? Here's how he tells the story in a recent interview:

I had been in touch with Filipino friends whom I had worked with in Pakistan and other places and I spoke with them and they said the story is still going on and there is no end in site. That led me to pitch it to my editor. I landed in Manila Sept. 28 last year.

He found out on his first shoot of his 35-day assignment just what he was up against:

The first scene I went to was a triple homicide. The police said it was a shootout. There were 30 journalists at the scene and in 30 seconds everyone cleared out. I remember leaving that scene thinking, how do we find out exactly what happened in terms of interviewing witnesses or family members? We quickly realized we had to work at a slower pace and go back to these places and interview people and follow up.

The police, at first, didn't push back. They were proud of what they were doing. But Berehulak found they were acting with a level of impunity that was disturbing.

They would present the information like it was a "buy bust" operation and say here are the drugs in the pocket of the guy and the gun they tried to shoot us with. But then we realized so many of the killings had these same details. It appeared they were planting the drugs, planting guns; and that some of the people weren't even involved in drugs at all.

He realizes the impact of his work is not going to make an immediate difference. But if he and his fellow photojournalists don't tell the story now, history would not be able to later.

If we weren't doing our job it would be a completely one-sided account of official police operations trying to combat drug usage and all of the voices of the families wouldn't be recorded. We were doing something that was important, writing history and giving a balanced account of what was going on.

The nearly half-hour video goes into all this in greater detail. The Los Angeles Press Club award presentation is a much shorter version if you're pressed for time. "Nothing would prepare me for what I would come across," he says early on. And take that as a warning. This isn't a matinee for the kids.

We mentioned at the start of this piece how well traveled Berehulak is. He's put on the miles to aim the strobe of photojournalism on injustices and abuses that would go unrecorded in the darker corners of the globe.

We suspect, though, that he won't have to travel far for his next assignment. With the free press under attack even in the United States, the globe seems to be growing darker every hour.

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