|Occupation||Journalist and producer|
Simon Ostrovsky (Russian: Симо́н Остро́вский; born February 2, 1981) is a Russian-born American documentary filmmaker and journalist. He is known for his coverage of the 2014 crisis in Ukraine for VICE News and for Selfie Soldiers, a 2015 documentary in which he re-enacted a Russian soldier's social media posts to track him to Ukraine. He was briefly held hostage by pro-Russia militants there in April 2014. Ostrovsky won an Emmy Award in 2013 for his work with VICE and his series Russian Roulette was nominated for two Emmys. Ostrovsky, who is a Special Correspondent for PBS NewsHour, is also a recipient of the Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award.
Ostrovsky started his career in documentary filmmaking in 2007 after spending six years as a print reporter in Russia, where he covered Russia for The Moscow Times and then Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan for the French news agency Agence France-Presse.
In 2007, Ostrovsky produced an exclusive report for BBC Newsnight investigating government-sponsored child labor in the cotton industry of Uzbekistan, which a US embassy cable published by Wikileaks credited with reigniting the global campaign against Uzbek cotton. Ostrovsky traced the supply chains of multinational garment retailers like Topshop, Walmart and H&M to Uzbekistan, leading many Western cotton buyers to eventually boycott the country.
In 2009, Ostrovsky exposed the use of North Koreans in work camps in Russia for BBC Newsnight, and linked their operations to the Russian Timber Group, a company owned and operated by the wealthy British Hambro family, which was paying the North Korean regime to use its workers in Russia.
He revisited those camps with VICE Media founder Shane Smith in 2011, and co-produced a separate report for VICE's documentary news series on HBO about the escape of defectors from North Korea in 2013.
Ostrovsky has reported extensively on the North Korean practice of sending workers abroad. In a report for the UK's Independent newspaper he described how a "North Korean labour force tens-of-thousands strong, put in place across Asia," helped finance the regime in Pyongyang through contracts with Western firms.
In early 2014, he helped launch the company's new current affairs division, VICE News, with his investigation into allegations of corruption at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and coverage of the 2014 crisis in Ukraine. His series of unvarnished video dispatches from Ukraine titled "Russian Roulette" won VICE News widespread acclaim and recognition as a burgeoning player on the media landscape. The series was nominated for two Emmys, won two Webby Awards in 2015, the AIB Media Excellence Awards and the Lovie Awards.
On April 21, 2014, while producing "Russian Roulette," a series of reports for Vice News in eastern Ukraine, Ostrovsky was taken captive in Sloviansk by the militia of the separatist pro-Russian leader, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, who said he was holding Ostrovsky for a potential trade. "We need prisoners. We need a bargaining chip," Ponomarev was quoted as telling The Moscow Times.
Ostrovsky was imprisoned for three days, during which he was held in a basement, beaten and interrogated. Ostrovsky described the ordeal as "the worst three days of my life" in an account he authored for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper.
In the article, Ostrovsky wrote: "A hat was pulled over my head and taped over my eyes. My arms were pulled tightly behind my back and taped together too. I was led down a set of stairs and thrown into an empty, damp room … I was punched and kicked in the ribs and fell over to the ground."
Immediately prior to his detention, Ostrovsky had been investigating Russian citizens' involvement in the pro-Russia armed groups of eastern Ukraine, something separatist forces were trying to hide at that early stage of the conflict, according to a video deposition he made for VICE News following his release. He had also attended several press conferences of Ponomarev where the rebel leader had threatened journalists.
He was released on April 24 after his detention garnered considerable global media attention.
Selfie Soldiers: Russia Checks in to Ukraine is a 2015 video investigation into the Russian military's presence in Ukraine, reported and produced by Ostrovsky. The documentary follows the steps of a careless Russian army soldier as he travels from Russia to the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, using selfies and other photographs the soldier has himself posted online. Selfie Soldiers departs from other such investigations into soldiers' social media posts when Ostrovsky re-enacts the photos himself to establish clearly that he has personally visited the locations where they were taken inside Ukraine and Russia. The film was awarded the prestigious Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award for its "innovative reporting" and an American Society of Magazine Editors Award for "outstanding use of video" in 2016.
DuPont Columbia University Award for Journalism, ASME award (Ellie) - Video Award, Livingston Award - Finalist, Cine Golden Eagle finalist - Nonfiction content / Short – Documentary, Webby Honoree - Online Film & Video, News & Politics
Emmy nomination - Outstanding Video Journalism, Emmy nomination - Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story, Webby Award - News & Politics: Series, Webby Award - News & Politics: Individual episode, AIB Award - Short News Report, Lovie Award - Best Web Personality/Host, Livingston Award - Finalist
IDA Documentary Awards – nomination
Emmy - Outstanding Informational Series
Banff World Television Awards - Nomination, One World Media Award - Nomination
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