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Colleagues: Jan Borg

Jan Borg, for many years, a cameraman with UPMT., UPIN, UPITN and WTN, the same company with four different names.  He was born May 1st 1938 in Oslo.

He was, formerly, a journalist, a war correspondent and filmmaker.

By the age of twenty, he was operating a 35mm camera working on the B.B.C. series “Men of Action” which was hosted by Sir Brian Horrocks who had been a man of action himself.  Borg operated a 35mm Arriflex in the Norwegian contribution to the series which dealt with the Norwegian resistance movement.

Borg received his training as a journalist with United Press International in Bouverie Street London, which was their European HQ.  Later he joined United Press Movietone Television UPI’s newly created division for coverage and distribution of television news from around the world.

Jan Borg og KameraFor more than 15 years in operated in the frontline of newsgathering worldwide. In 1963 he became responsible for the UPMT’s television coverage from East Europe, based in West Berlin with shorter periods in Moscow.

Borg’s ability to be present in the right place, at right time, made him a coveted film reporter.  He filmed the first tunnel, dug by refugees, under the Berlin wall where, in October 1963, fifty-seven East Berliners reached the freedom in the West before the tunnel was discovered and destroyed.

In June 1967 he covered the six days war in the Middle East.  He operated on all three fronts in Israel’s war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

Earlier the same year he produced three documentaries on the Israeli Air Force, Army and Navy.

In March 1968 he was the only cameraman to get film coverage out from the violent demonstrations against the Communist rulers in Warsaw, when University students protested against censorship. The protests were met with violence by the Polish security forces. The reel of film of these events was hidden in Borg’s underwear and smuggled out on the first available flight to the West and distributed worldwide by Swedish TV in Stockholm.

On August 20, 1968, the Soviet Union, with nearly 5,000 tanks and 165,000 troops and an additional help from allies of the Soviet Union, invaded Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovakian government told the invaders that “the illegal occupation of Czechoslovakia be stopped without delay and all armed troops be withdrawn.” The Russian tried to claim that they had been invited to preserve socialism, but the Czechoslovakian people showed that they were not welcome by protesting in the streets. Some of these protests turned violent when some of the protesters were killed.

Jan Borg was responsible for the first scenes that came out of Prague during the Warsaw Pact countries invasion of Czechoslovakia. He captured dramatic scenes of Russian tanks on the streets.  The scenes of the invasion were distributed by United Press Television (UPIN) and shown on TV-screens all over the world.

Jan Borg also covered the war in Biafra.  In May 1967, Biafra attempted to secede from Nigeria.  A civil war broke out which lasted until January 1970.

IMG_2076Borg was also close to the front line in Vietnam.  Between 1961 and 1975, UPITN rotated a number of cameramen to Vietnam all of whom distinguished themselves with their coverage which was often obtained under fire.

In the late 1960s, what was known then as East Pakistan, sought to gain independence from West Pakistan. Relations between the two grew strained over the lack of official recognition for the Bengali language, spoken by the majority in East Pakistan, the domination of local government in East Pakistan by people from West Pakistan, the higher taxes pain by theme and the lack of help during the 1970 Bhola cyclone, which had affected millions in East Pakistan. These grievances led to several political agitations in East Pakistan and ultimately a fight for full independence. In March 1971

Jan Borg covered the dispute between India and Pakistan when Pakistan had to relinquish East Pakistan and the State of Bangladesh was formed.

With the help of India, they defeated the Pakistan military forces and became Bangladesh in 1971.

He was nearly shot during the mass demonstrations at The Three Cultures Place in Mexico City a week before the official opening of the Olympic Summer Games in 1968 where the army stormed the place and killed several hundred student and other demonstrators.

Jan Borg can also look back on a number of other major news events in Latin America, on the African continent and in South East Asia including the war between Indonesia and Malaysia in the early sixties.

Jan Borg started his own film production company in 1974 – BORGFILM AS – and delivered more than 50 documentaries to TV-stations worldwide.  The company’s activities also included commercials, features and a series of film and video productions for the Industry.

IMG_2075He also worked for many years as a correspondent in Norway for the national German TV-channel ARD-NDR. Borg has been heavily involved in humanitarian work and preformed a variety of missions for Norwegian and international  charities. For a period he was president in the local Lions Club at Bygdoy.

Jan Borg has a career record to be proud of.

Additional articles on Jan Borg:

Cameraman tales: Jan Borg
Cameraman tales: Jan Borg Tlatelolco massacre 1968
Cameraman tales: Jan Borg – Mission to Moscow

© Terence Gallacher and, 2013.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For more articles in the Colleagues series click here.

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