A SERIES of powerful documentaries which bring home the importance of eyewitness reporting will begin on TV this week – featuring war photographer and Sunday National foreign editor David Pratt.

Produced by award-winning documentary maker Robbie Fraser, the Pictures From series highlights three major conflicts Pratt has covered during his 40-year career and includes an emotional trip back to the spot where he was convinced he was going to die.

The films, commissioned by BBC Scotland and co-financed by Screen Scotland, contain original footage as well as revisiting the places and people Pratt came across during his work.

Pictures From Iraq, which premiered at Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) this year, will air on BBC Scotland on Tuesday, with Pictures From The Balkans screening the following Tuesday and Pictures From Afghanistan, which premiered at GFF in 2020, screening on Tuesday, July 19.

Pictures From The Balkans has never been seen before and was the most emotional for Pratt who, during the making of the documentary, relived his experience of being kidnapped.

A new documentary is set to feature the work of the Sunday National's foreign editor David PrattOne of David Pratt's pictures of the Balkans

Covering the Yugoslav wars of the 90s, it traces his journey back to the small town of Citluk where initially friendly Croatian Defence Council (HVO) militia kidnapped him, beat him brutally for several days, breaking his collarbone and ribs, then put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

“I was convinced I was going to die,” said Pratt. “To this day I don’t know if it was a mock execution or if the gun just failed to go off.”

He was then knocked unconscious and left alone. When he came to, he used a barbed wire fence to hack through his ties and crawled in excruciating pain to the roadside, where he was picked up by a car of men smoking weed who took him to safety.

A new documentary is set to feature the work of the Sunday National's foreign editor David PrattDavid Pratt at a monument at Citluk, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Although he was able to return to Scotland, he “pretty much went off the rails afterwards” as he struggled to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and a deep depression which led him to thoughts of suicide.

He told the Sunday National he had been dreading returning to the area in order to make the documentary.

“It was very difficult and I do have a bit of a breakdown in the film, but it was as though a weight had been lifted off me in a way,”

said Pratt.

“It was one of those things that had been kind of haunting me for years and it helped a little to face up to my demons.”

A large cross has been erected near where he was kidnapped which, rather than being dedicated to the war’s victims, is instead for the “victims” of the war crimes tribunals at the Hague.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Pratt. “A war crime was committed against myself yet nearby there is a monument to commemorate those who stood trial for war crimes. You couldn’t make it up – they are clearly in denial.”

Now as the world’s focus is on the war crimes being committed in Ukraine, Pratt believes eyewitness reports are more important than ever.

“If we don’t have people on the ground, with all the dangers that involves, then we don’t have insight into these places and what is going on and that is an extremely dangerous situation as we have found out with Ukraine,” he said.

Fraser added: “Scotland’s always had a strong showing in terms of international reporters. Just look at Allan Little, Quentin Sommerville, Martin Patience, Laura Bicker, Martin Geissler, Angus Roxburgh and others.

“But David’s unique in that he’s an independent. He’s a photojournalist with 40 years of experience, and has the amazing photo and video archive to prove it. It’s always a pleasure and privilege to head out on a trip with him. Experiencing Afghanistan and Iraq for me as a filmmaker was really special. But what I really appreciate most is the way that David talks so openly about what he went through in Bosnia. And I hope the process of making that film in particular has helped him exorcise some of the ghosts.”

Tuesday’s documentary unravels the complex recent history of Iraq, using Pratt’s rich personal archive of photographs and video.

The story begins in the north, in the Kurdish city of Erbil, where he pays a visit to General Sirwan Barzani, leader of a unit of the Kurdish army – known as the Peshmerga – called the Black Tigers. Barzani’s troops occupy a mountainous region in the north, a disputed area which is still subject to Daesh activity. On a mountain ridge which runs along the Tigers’ line of defence, Pratt hears from Barzani how the Kurds and federal Iraqi government try to manage the uneasy peace, and how the Daesh threat has not gone away.

A new documentary is set to feature the work of the Sunday National's foreign editor David PrattDavid Pratt (left) with Sirwan Barzani

He travels on through the Kurdish autonomous region to a base of all-female fighters from the Kurdish Freedom Party. These women are not Iraqi Kurds, but Iranian, their presence here underlining the political complexity of the region. They are not regular army but revolutionaries, seeking to build a unified Kurdistan.

As the journey proceeds, the action flashes back to 1991 before the Gulf War when Pratt was reporting from Iraq. Then it is on to the Iraq war in 2003 and afterwards, when he was embedded with American troops.

In Pictures From Afghanistan, filmed in 2019 before the current regime took over, Pratt visits the Russian Centre For Science And Culture, a site he’d previously photographed when it was a ruin on the frontline. Here he talks to Vyacheslav Nekrasov, a Russian intelligence officer in the 1980s.

During the film, Pratt reflects on his young days photographing the Mujahideen during the war against the Soviets and being embedded with British troops out in the field after 9/11. He connects with people with links to that past and conducts an interview with the Taliban.

The episodes, which will air at 10pm on BBC Scotland each Tuesday, will be available on iPlayer after transmission.