BEST OF 2018

The Observers' amateur images of the year

Six amateur images that marked 2018 at the Observers.
Six amateur images that marked 2018 at the Observers.

During 2018, the Observers' team of journalists in Paris verified hundreds of photos and videos sent in by our Observers around the world. Images of violence and cruelty, or hope and kindness... our journalists reflect on the images that had the most impact on them in 2018.

Maëva Poulet: "Joseph sends us videos from conflicts that get little coverage"

My favourite video from 2018 was sent in by our Observer Joseph Tsongo in North Kivu, in eastern DR Congo. He visited the Kiwanja refugee camp and met a local singer called Etienne Kasereka who comes to the camp every Saturday to give guitar lessons to the kids. Their families have fled the Mai Mai militia in Lubero, and the children are out of school and often traumatized by what they’ve been through.

Joseph often sends us videos from conflicts that get little coverage outside Congo. There are more than a million “internally displaced people” in North Kivu, according to the UN. I thank Joseph for sending us images like this as a reminder of what they are going through.

WATCH ON THE OBSERVERS: Bringing music to displaced kids in DR Congo

Chloé Lauvergnier  : “It was the longest investigation I’ve worked on”

The video I’ll most remember from 2018 started going viral on Aug. 7, 2018, even though it turned out that it was actually filmed in 2015. It appeared to show soldiers in Cameroon summarily executing dozens of civilians. We had actually come across the video in mid-July, and I had been working on it for three weeks, contacting as many people as I could.

My sources allowed me to conclude that the incident took place in January 2015 in Achigachia, in the country’s Far North province on the border with Nigeria, where the army is battling Boko Haram. We published our article on Aug. 9. The army had initially said the video was a “fake”, but on Aug. 13 the government announced an investigation.  It was the longest investigation I’ve worked on.

READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Video proves Cameroonian soldiers executed civilians

Sarra Grira: "It was a lesson in courage"

My favourite images of 2018 were from the “Champions’ Club” in Gaza – an amputee football team whose members have lost limbs in Israeli bombardments, and this year during the “Great March of Return” protests, when Israeli troops shot at protesters’ legs. The founders of the club got the idea when they saw amputee football teams competing on TV.

I admire the resilience of the Gazan players. Instead of succumbing to despair, they decided to transform their handicap into a motivator. And I admire their perseverance: they make do with what they have: it’s hard to import competition-level crutches into the territory for instance. When I interviewed the team’s manager Mahmoud Na’ouq via Skype for the Observers TV show, he spoke with a big grin on his face. It was a lesson in courage.

READ MORE ON THE OBSERVERS:  Gazan football team brings together players with amputated limbs

Gaëlle Faure : “This was just one of many church closings in China”

The photo I best remember shows two men dismantling the cross at a church in Henan province, China. This was just one of many images of church closings in China that Web users shared images of in 2018. The authorities took action against independent churches that refused to register officially because their members didn’t want to be subject to surveillance and censorship. In many cases, the pastors and some congregants were arrested.

Christians aren’t the only religious group under pressure in China: Buddhists and especially Muslims are also targeted. According to the UN, around 1 million members of the Muslim minority Uighur group are held in internment camps.

READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Videos show ‘escalation’ of church closures in China

Alexandre Capron: "He used the blackboard because the school had no computers"

My favourite amateur image of the year came from Richard Akoto, a

science and technology teacher in Sekyedumase, a town in central Ghana. On Feb.

15, he posted a photo on Facebook showing a drawing he had done of Microsoft

Word on the blackboard. He explained that he used the blackboard

because the school had no computers. After speaking to us (and lots of other

media), he was invited to attend a Microsoft education summit in Singapore. The

company also promised to give computers to the school, with free use of their


READ ON THE OBSERVERS: How photos of a teacher in Ghana took him all the way to Microsoft

Derek Thomson: "This photograph captures the ingenuity of Iranian protesters"

This photograph captures the ingenuity of Iranian protesters determined to win greater freedoms for women in the Islamic Republic – notably from the country’s compulsory hijab rules. In early 2018 there was a wave of Iranian women who climbed onto telephone junction boxes, took off their headscarves and waved them on the end of a stick.

They were following an example set by Vida Movahedi on Dec. 27, 2017 on Tehran’s Enghelab Street. The police responded in February by installing a peaked cover on the box in Enghelab Street – making it impossible to stand on – and on other boxes nearby. And then, on the night of Feb. 24, 2018, unknown sympathisers installed wooden platforms designed to let the women continue their protests.

READ MORE ON THE OBSERVERS: Tehran police’s plan to discourage veil protesters backfires

Liselotte Mas: "It’s rare for migrants in Libya to document their captivity"

With thousands of migrants still trying to cross the Mediterranean, and European countries cracking down of efforts to save them, human trafficking has become a big business in Libya.

In July, we received a video circulating via WhatsApp in which a group of Nigerian migrants said that after being picked up by the Libyan Coast Guard they were being held against their will in a detention camp in Zawiyah. After we

made enquiries, the International Organization for Migration organized a flight to bring the migrants back to Nigeria. The video was notable because it’s rare for migrants detained in Libyan camps to be able to document their captivity – and even rarer for them to get out.

READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Migrants escape detention in Libya after WhatsApp appeal