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Claims and Counter-Claims A statement by the curator of the exhibition Material Evidence: Syria

and Ukrain.

Currently we face since we are presenting the exhibition in NY (opened on the 21
of September) -
unprecedented attacks on the exhibition from various sides. Interestingly they only focus on the
Ukraine part and the Syrian part is fully ignored. As the curator and myself, a freelance conflict
reporter who has covered the Syrian War on the opposition side in 2012 and 2013, as well as the
Crimean crisis for Corbis Agency and newspapers like the taz.die tageszeitung and weekendavisen
(Denmark), and who was threatened by Pro-Russian Separatists in Sevastopol/Crimea I would never
have expected something like this to happen. Thus here several clarifying statements:

1. The claim by a Ukraine newspaper, re-blogged by Euromaidanpress, that the advertisement
may have cost millions of dollars and that the homepage is owned by a famous Russian
ballerina (who has close ties to Putin) is a lie. A): The costs on advertisements in NY can be
checked here: [access
date?] - we published only a small targeted advertisement, running for four weeks, in
downtown and other parts of Manhattan on exactly 30 busses (outdoor stickers on the sides of
the busses) and roughly 250 posters in subway stations (thus less than 200 subway stations in
total). As you can calculate yourself the costs are nowhere near the claimed millions of
dollars though the real price is a lot of money for this project anyway. B): The claim about
the ballerina owning the project and/or the homepage is incorrect. If you check the screenshot
accompanying this article you clearly see that it refers to the admins name (!). Additionally
we have no clue why the freelance IT/web designer whom we asked to set up the homepage
used this name in the first place (so thanks in that regard for pointing this out to us) and/or if
he used this name for other customers as well. We have made an inquiry in this regard and
will also hold open the option of taking legal action against the web designer.
2. Regarding the exhibition itself: We have an 18+ section that shows the killed and wounded
Maidan protesters. In that room there is a video running on loop that clearly shows the killing
of Maidan protesters. The video is from a Pro Maidan You Tube channel. Additionally, we
have another video in the Ukraine section commemorating the killed protesters. It is also from
a Pro-Maidan channel. This is totally neglected by all the so-called critics. That we focus
more on the slow rise of right winged groups and the consequences of the war in the east is a
legitimate journalistic expression and these topics got also covered by many western
newspapers (like the Guardian etc.). Especially the role of Oleh Ljaschko, who has scored 8.3
percentage with is right-winged populist party in the last presidential elections and whom
current polls suggest to get the second place in the upcoming parliament elections, is a serious
threat to any peace and reconciliation effort (as well as the extremist pro-Russian separatists in
the east). He claimed that the ceasefire would be an act of national betrayal and of national
shame. There are also investigations by western Human Rights Groups in his involvement in
alleged acts of war crimes (as they are committed on both sides of the conflict line in large
numbers). He is also a founding member of the extreme right winged Azow Battalion as well
as the Battalion Schachtar.
3. We had a lot of visitors from (West-) Ukraine that supported the exhibition and expressed
themselves in this regard in our guestbook. One Pro-Maidan Activist will also contribute
additional photos and videos from his experiences on the Maidan protests for the next show.
4. All these lies and rants against the exhibition have led to serious problems including a
physical attack on myself by a Ukraine (?) nationalist with pepper spray on Friday, 3
October. Two additional thugs distributed ultra nationalist flyers, and tried to deface several
images in the exhibition itself. That shows how heated this exhibition got and that it now
brings serious danger to all the people who help us in this regard. We had to up the security
but probably cant keep up with the costs and thus the whole exhibition project is threatened.
This is another reason why we currently do not disclose the names of the photographers as
they are still working (as freelancers) in Ukraine and Syria and any spotlight on them would
risk exposing them to serious harm. That is the reason why so many Western colleagues
nowadays write their articles with a pseudonym and/or publish their photos via agencies
without any name as journalists are seen nowadays in all conflict zones as legitimate targets
by either side. And we want to point out again: Wars are not good vs. evil wars are grey!
But it must be legitimate to show the situation on other conflict sides or other aspects of a
conflict zone, even if they break with the nice simple image many people have on these
5. As I stated several times publicly the exhibition is a work in progress. I was brought on board
to correct the slogans used, change the captions and professionalize the whole project. Thus
there is still some stuff to do (like rewriting the homepage and the headlines used in the
advertisement etc.) as well as to correct some of the captions. This will be done step by step.
6. The idea is to keep on going with similar exhibitions and projects. For that we are currently
founding an association in Germany to get more donations (with the clear statement that we
do not take ANY donations from governments or political parties, but only from individuals)
and crowd funding. This will also add another layer on accountability in regards to the outside
world (as necessary by German Law). And we want to focus on investigative journalism as
well as the coverage of underreported conflicts all over the world thus this shows again that
we have no agenda as claimed by the various sides.

Benjamin Hiller, freelance conflict journalist since 2008, based in Berlin/Germany.

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