Jake Hanrahan: Irregular Warfare

As audiences turn from mainstream news reporting, independent journalism is gaining in popularity and trust.

Riveting stories of conflicts and crime on the world stage are brought to us by journalists who accept the risk of putting themselves in harms way. They do it to get the story behind today’s headlines so the rest of us can know what’s actually happening in the world. One such independent journalist is Jake Hanrahan of the UK, who brings us stories from some of the world’s most dangerous hotspots. His firsthand reporting also covers the underworld of organized crime, exposes extremist political views, and dives into conspiracy theories. Take a look at his showreel to see what takes to get the story…

Journalistic Integrity at Stake

In an interview with Defiance, Hanrahan shares his view on why audiences are becoming distrustful of mainstream news, “Because a lot of people are getting sick of what they’re seeing every day. It’s not just kooky people. Normal people now, everybody is just going like, ‘Hang on, I’m sick of this. I’m sick of being told what to think. I’m sick of having a f***ing political spin on everything.’ So, yeah, I think independent journalism is a very good place right now.”

Young boys assembling an assault rifle at a summer camp run by the far-right Azov Battalion (35mm) — Ukraine, 2017

Hanrahan works as a correspondent and producer, creating documentaries, articles, and photojournalistic works. Featured by top media and news outlets, his reporting has been covered by HBO, Mother Jones, VICE News, Esquire, Frontline, ProPublica, BBC News, The Guardian, Wired, and others.

Not content with run-of-the-mill reporting, Hanrahan takes it up more than a notch focusing on irregular warfare, delving into the darkest depths to produce eye-opening works. His specialty zeroes in on militia forces, paramilitaries, and guerrilla warfare. He’s reported on the underreported in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Turkey, Hong Kong, Palestine, Israel, as well as Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Peru, riots in Europe, and other hotbeds of conflict.

Kurdish Peshmerga on the Gwer frontline, taking aim at ISIS in the distance — Iraq, 2015

Becoming the Story

In August of 2015, amid clashes between the Kurdish militant group PKK and Turkish armed forces in southeastern Turkey, Hanrahan was deeply embedded with PKK’s youth wing, the YDG-H, covering the conflict. He and his colleagues Philip Pendlebury and Mohammed Rasool were taken into custody by Turkish forces on charges of terrorism and assisting ISIS. Hanrahan and Pendlebury spent two weeks in maximum security prisons in Turkey before being deported back to the UK. Rasool remained behind bars until January 2016.

PKK youth (YDG-H) guerrillas on an armed bike patrol in the war torn town of Cizre — southeast Turkey, 2015

Hanrahan has also reported from deep within the Ukrainian conflict. He has been embedded with the Ukraine Army and the opposing DNR, the Russian backed separatist forces, even while under fire to get the real story. He brings insight from frontlines and from the people living under the new rule of the region. You can watch the news segment here…

Hanrahan enjoys bringing us niche reporting, sparking our interest in “weird” underbelly stories of the news realm. Some of his interesting exploits include investigating a Japanese doomsday cult, interviewing skaters who turned corrupt Tunisian politician Trabelsi’s ransacked mansion into a skating rink, reporting on a Silk Road drugs boss, shedding light on Illuminati, and exploring an abandoned mental asylum.


Patron and his merchandise — Morocco, 2016

On the Popular Front

Wanting to create greater exposure for stories that would otherwise not see the light of day, Hanrahan founded Popular Front, a grass roots conflict journalism outlet. Posting stories that are underreported by major media, Popular Front delivers news unfiltered, raw, and real. He’s even written the catch phrase for it, “No frill, no elitism” meaning he wants it to be basic and no-nonsense.

A boy holds up a 50 caliber bullet casing in Kumanovo, after a fight between Albanian militants and Macedonian security forces broke out — Macedonia, 2015

First launched in 2018 as a podcast, Popular Front grew into a grassroots platform featuring documentaries, articles, and investigations. The platform boasts a large community of likeminded conflict reporters and readers. Completely independent, it is funded by members via sponsorships and subscriptions without any corporate backing or advertisers.

He had set a goal to produce weekly podcasts if Popular Front reached $500 a week, something he did not expect to ever reach. “Then within a month or two it hit $500 and I’m like ‘Oh God.’ I don’t think I realized how much work it was going to be, editing long episodes, putting them out every week, but so far, I’ve managed it. I’ve been doing like two-a-week recording, spending my weekends editing them, and then I put them out in a week. So far, it’s been working,” he shares in an interview with The Defense Post.

Youth members of Saoradh marching in Belfast. Saoradh is a “dissident” Irish Republican party that the police claim is linked to a paramilitary group known as the New IRA — Northern Ireland, 2018

Works in Filmography

As an independent journalist and producer of documentaries, Hanrahan is known for making revealing news films and was the consulting producer of the TV series documentary Vice: Enemies at the Gates (2013) about the fracturing of the Middle East. He was also the producer of an episode of Vice News: Sweden’s War on Fascists (2013), examining the ultra-nationalist political parties scoring victories in European elections. Take a look at his report featuring a first-hand account on Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster…

His self-works for the TV series documentary Frontline includes Documenting Hate: New American Nazis (2018) exposing neo-Nazi recruitment inside the U.S. military; and Documenting Hate: Charlottesville (2018) investigating white supremacists and neo-Nazis who participated in 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. As a correspondent, he reported in the documentary Iconoclast, a true-life thriller about the notorious art smuggler Michel van Rijn.

Self-Taught Journalism

Hanrahan took an interest in writing at a young age and began crafting stories for free while working odd jobs. Self-made, he didn’t attend a university but began getting published. His articles ran in the Guardian and other publications. Self-described as a slow writer, he wanted to break into the more lucrative field of documentaries. He caught his big break with Vice News as an on-screen correspondent.

He settled his focus on the niche details of war and conflict rather than covering broad brush stories where the audience was already expected to have some knowledge on the subject. His aim is to bring to light the news no one knows about. Instead of pursuing mainstream, he strives for that moment when a reader says, “Wow, I didn’t know that.” For more information on Jake Hanrahan visit jakehanrahan.com.