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Reporting from Uzbekistan With a Lens Hidden in Plain Sight

BY Lisa Goldman | Monday, November 26 2012

A BBC journalist who recorded interviews with her iPhone and Skype in order to circumvent official restrictions on the media discovered that these tools were so effective in producing broadcast quality content that she no longer needed the bulky conventional equipment, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Natalia Antelava's documentary about a secret program to sterilize women in Uzbekistan won the 2012 Foreign Press Association Award.

Given that the BBC was banned from reporting Uzbekistan, where the press is severely restricted even under the best of circumstances, Antelava knew she could not wander around the country with the conventional equipement of a television journalist. To circumvent the Uzbek authorities, she met the women on the Kazakhstan border and interviewed them with her iPhone; in other cases, she conducted the interviews via Skype.

In a country where people are terrified of speaking not just to journalists, to their neighbours and their family members, doing a programme like that came with a whole load of problems and that's why, having considered very carefully the options for recording, we decided the mobile phone was the way to go.

Antelava discovered that the iPhone made her job easier in more ways than one.

Asked if interviewees responded differently because she was using a phone rather than a microphone, Antelava said that they did.

"I've always been envious of print reporters who don't have to stick a microphone into the faces of their interviewees. The mobile phone is so much part of everybody's life now that people just don't seem to be intimidated or pay much attention to it at all. It was much, much easier."

Antelava used an iPhone 4S which she found to "be really good at picking up ambient sound".

"I would just sit in a room and keep it running for sound and no one would pay much attention to me or pay much attention to the fact that I was recording anything."

Since she completed the award-wining documentary more than a year ago, she has not resumed using her heavy camera and boom mic.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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