Reflections on Covering Oslo Anti-War Protest in Solidarity With Ukraine

Photo: Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk

I started this article on Monday, and didn’t finish it until today as my body gave way to physical exhaustion and just yesterday, I was met with an unexpected event at my daughter’s school where two persons holding soft guns were seen around the premises. Police were called and they were detained. The situation de-escalated and things were relatively calm afterwards. My daughter seemed okay. So here I dive in again.

It is Monday, two days after covering Saturday’s protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I have just finished my first day at AWS Cloud Practitioner course organised by INNO-SCI based in Bergen. I wonder if I will manage to complete this course, alongside another course I am taking, notably NEXT MBA Marketing Director course. Though thankfully, I only needed to attend classes on one Saturday every month, and do assignments – either group or individual.

I missed the Group meeting on Saturday as I was covering the protest but have been involved in the presentation development. As I am writing this, my body still aches from all the intensive running and kneeling, and climbing over fences and jumping onto high grounds to take the photos. You may have seen the photos and interviews we did if you have been following the articles published on The Oslo Desk recently.

I wanted to write this account to shed some light on the coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war and also bring insight into the decisions I made along the way, and give you a sneak peek into the journey of covering this protest.

At 10.15 AM

I met with my colleague, Leanna Lunde, at a nearby café from the Norwegian Parliament. She hands me over a sellotape so that I can fasten the printed press card so that it wouldn’t fall out of the transparent wallet. This was her first time covering a protest. Andre, my colleague couldn’t join us.

Once we planned the rundown of how we would cover the protest, and if anything happens during the protest, we set up a plan to find each other. We never know how the protest would develop until we get there.

Andre once covered a protest outside Stortinget and got pepper sprayed and so the safety of my colleagues and who I considered as friends, takes priority.

A 10:45AM

We made our way outside of Stortinget, as the crowd started to gather. We see other news reporters gaining their ground and setting up their cameras. Leanna leaned in and said, “Don’t you notice that the white men are looking at us strangely?”. My mind jumped into my skin colour. I told her it might be because they are not used to seeing a female journalist of a minority background like me with a camera. Or, perhaps they saw me as being Chinese, I had some ties with Russia given their political connection.

There was no doubt that every time I embed myself with the other reporters, I stick out. These are white Norwegians, men and women, tall and can tower over me. With my short height, it is tough to get footage from above, so I have to always be creative.

This photo below was taken as I am used to dropping low and working with my physical capacity. I used it as an advantage. As I ducked underneath the long blue-yellow flag, I saw the beauty of it and the ice on the grass. I was proud of taking it. Yet I almost lost my phone taking it. Thankfully, as I dashed back, a lady was just about to pick it up and she gave it to me.

Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk

My arms were aching from holding the camera taking videos. Usually, Andre would be standing near the speakers and filming them, but now I needed to take on that workload, flipping back and forth from video to photo mode.

At around 12:00PM

I get a call from Leanna asking where I was, and in which direction the crowd will go to get to the Russian embassy. It was hard for me to tell as I couldn’t see the crowd moving, but from her angle, she saw a small crowd that broke apart from the larger crowd already heading up along Karl Johan street towards the palace.

As I spoke with her on the phone to track where she might be, the people holding the long flag started to move. The organiser also was shouting instructions. I had to MOVE.

I ran ahead of the people carrying the flag and bumped into Leanna. I told her that I will quickly run ahead as the crowd starts moving to capture the long rows of people walking together, to get that shot you often see during protests in Oslo.

Photographers were zooming in front of me, making it harder for me to take a clear shot. I pass a friend who called for me. I told her I couldn’t talk at that moment and ran further along. When I grabbed my shots, I went back to say Hi briefly before jumping on top of the edge of a large pot of plants. I was able to get some shots there.

Tired, Leanna caught up with me and said she will run up further since I did the running. So she ran up further to catch some more images. I brisk walked up the hill with no traffic in my way. Once I got up high enough, I kneeled down and took a couple more shots. I couldn’t see any other photographers.

Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk

I did the same thing at the time, looking forward and backwards, to see if I could get a good shot of the protest.

By the time, I reached the Russian Embassy, the crowd was filling up the space and I needed to find a high ground to take some photos. I climbed over a fence and decided to take out my tripod this time as my hands were shaking and I had been eating cold air that was drying my throat. You probably wondering, why don’t you get a monopod – simply, can’t afford one.

People around me were sandwiching me in and my tripod bag accidentally knocked the walking sticks of the lady through the gaps of the fence. The people below pierced it through the opening and gave it back to her.

I needed to MOVE.

I took all my equipment with me and headed on a peripheral patch of wet grass where I could put my tripod down and shove it into the bag. I held my camera and opened the portal gate and was about to dive back into the crowd.

I heard a scream from above calling out my name. It was my friend Kriti. She waved me to come up. It is as though God has heard my prayers, I wanted to get a real good aerial photo of the protest and especially with the long flag.

I thanked my friend and headed down to meet with Leanna again.

Luckily, we found some protestors hovering around and grabbed some interviews. An elderly lady approached us wondering which newspaper we were in and how we would be reporting on the event. A car moved into the car park that we were standing in, and I grabbed what I could onto a wet, muddy grass whilst Leanna and the lady helped me with the other equipment.

We chatted and explained as I packed everything into my bags. Leanna took the lead in explaining about The Oslo Desk. The lady told us that she is from Romania and tipped us that in the past, Norway was not that open and that she was happy to see that they are opening up more at this time.

I didn’t know what to think, because this was one war, but there were other wars prior and they didn’t get the attention they needed.

We made our way to a café so that we can have a rundown of actions we needed to take in order to get all the video and photo footage in place for social media distribution and for the article to publish.

Opposite us were three young ladies with Ukrainian flags. We decided to ask them for an interview which would give a more nuanced coverage of the protest. They agreed and we pulled out our camera and started to film. We soon parted ways, and I made my way home.

Got home at around 0420PM, missing the group presentation, I notified my group and got on with editing the photos and writing the body of text. We got our article and photos published.

Sunday came, and I was getting messages and seen in my social media feed of how Africans and Asians were being blocked from fleeing Ukraine. Racism doesn’t stop at war, and the media’s biased coverage has been telling. Our efforts were to show the multi-layered perspectives of this war.

Suffering from physical exhaustion, I carried on pushing through another article that would give another layer to the war. I spent countless hours verifying and fact-checking information, and checking whether the social media accounts were legit. So many of the same videos were shared with the original source intact. Eventually, I landed on four Twitter accounts, and my colleagues sent me over any articles that had surfaced.

Another article was published.

If you would like to share with us your opinion regarding the war, email theteam.tod@gmail.com.

Like our work? Please consider becoming a member or make a one-off donation at Buy Me A Coffee.

Ka Man Mak

Ka Man is an investigative journalist, documentary photographer, and social entrepreneur, as well as the founder of The Oslo Desk. She is a British-born Hong Konger residing in Oslo, Norway. She holds a Master in Environmental Geoscience and have taken numerous diplomas including child psychology, and a course in big data analytics at OsloMet. Made numerous publications in newsletters, magazines and Norwegian newspapers. Interested in edtech, constructive journalism, women in migration, Cantonese language, alternatives to capitalism and asylum policy.