Tag Archives journalism

Briefly, what is journalism?

Briefly, what is journalism?

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george orwell: journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.

An apt quote from George Orwell which the press in this part of the world in particular need to mull and head. I know that they won’t, but it’s worth reminding them of their duty. Even if one of the thousands of journalists gets a pang on conscience after reading this, then that’s a good step in the right direction.

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.

— George Orwell

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Peace through Media Award

Peace through Media Award

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A well deserved award for Dr Mansoor Al-Jamri and his paper. Al-Wasat has proven itself the only independent newspaper in Bahrain if not the Gulf and beyond. While I have become more skeptical of late, I tend to give news articles much more credence than any of the other papers in Bahrain and its columns, more thought.

Well done Al-Wasat. Onward and upward and leave the others eating your dust!

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Oh the irony! Anwar calls the BBC yellow!

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Read these gems, but please hold your laughter!

Why the BBC ‘has let down Bahrain’s people’

By Arthur Macdonald, GDN, Posted on » Wednesday, November 02, 2011

MANAMA: The British Broadcasting Corporation moved from being a globally respected news organisation to joining the ranks of the yellow press during the unrest in Bahrain.

That is the view of Akhbar Al Khaleej Editor-in-Chief Anwar Abdulrahman.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Bahrain Chapter of the International Advertising Association meeting yesterday at the InterContinental Regency Bahrain, in Manama, Mr Abdulrahman said that the BBC had let down the people of Bahrain with its coverage.

“I have respected the BBC in the past but they seem to have had a mental change,” he said.

“What they said over the unrest turned them into yellow journalism. I suppose they were in competition with the Sun at that level of coverage and now we have a BBC that we can no longer trust.

“I hope we, as human beings, learn and repair our standards because the coverage of the BBC was damaging to Bahrain in the eyes of the world.”

He added: “The BBC broadcasts its news bulletins in every language. If only a few Bahraini teenagers burn tyres in the streets to hinder traffic, for the BBC this is big news.

“However, when the house of the most distinguished Bahraini woman journalist Sameera Rajab was attacked with Molotov cocktails last week, the BBC did not utter a word.

“I seriously question its integrity.”

To illustrate the differences in perception between the Arab world and the West, Mr Abdulrahman related the incident of a Bahraini student staying in the UK who one day found that the lady serving them in the cafeteria had disappeared.

On enquiring, he was told that she was facing some family problems. So he decided to visit her.

“Thank you for coming to visit me,” she said. “I am facing enormous problems. My husband has run away with another woman and, secondly, my 18-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant. These are facts of life I have to face.”

Suddenly she started crying and said: “But what is really tragic is that my dog has died.”

I don’t particularly give a damn for Anwar Abdulrahman being at the head of not one but two so-called “newspapers” in Bahrain. What I do give a damn about; however, is that an organisation like the IAA not only gives him the time of day but provides him with a platform from which he spreads his filth. The IAA must’ve been desperate for a mediocre comedian to entertain them during one of their lunches. What they have done with him being there is miserably failed their members and wasted yet another opportunity to raise the level of their Chapter and its membership with something worthwhile to listen to and learn from.

This joker entertained his crowd by branding an ancient and one of the most respected media edifices in the world as yellow journalists, then he goes on to contend that “the coverage of the BBC was damaging to Bahrain in the eyes of the world“. I suppose on Planet Moron™, in which he is a founding member, that would be a believable contention, on Planet Earth; however, it just leads to hilarious, rolling on the floor, leg-cicking mirth. What does damage this country’s reputation in the eyes of the world is him and his likes obfuscating the truth and creating such tall stories to support their unsupportable positions. The damage that Anwar Abdulrahman & Co have done to this country is untold, and time, being the merciless judge it is, will one day serve them their deeds in life or chiseled on their headstones for eternity.

But Anwar being on a roll doesn’t stop at those ridiculous contentions of course, oh no, he continues by insulting the Western world in general and the the UK in particular by what he believes to be a “funny and poignant story” which he typically attributes it to yet another of his imaginary sources to bolster his tenuous position.

Journalism? Ethics? Truth? Humanity? Those facets are as far away from him as they could possibly be, but in Planet Moron™, he’s the dog’s bollocks!

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Reprieve for Al-Wasat

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It’s with pleasure that I read that Al-Wasat‘s investors have decided to rescind their previous decision to close down the paper. The board of directors has now decided to continue publishing the paper under their new management.

Regardless of my personal apprehensions on its current editorial direction, and my sadness for the forced resignation by its very much respected founder and editor-in-chief Dr. Al-Jamri, I wish Al-Wasat, its journalists and professional staff the best of luck and hope that they will continue to push boundaries and establish new journalistic grounds for the whole of Bahrain to benefit from.

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Punishments

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Punishments come in various guises, but the worst of those are the collective and indiscriminate ones.

I think we’re seeing that today levied against the most respected newspaper in Bahrain. Al-Wasat comes to our doors with just 20 pages, and virtually no advertisements whatsoever.

If this carries on, not only tens of families will lose their livelihoods, but much more importantly, a balanced and professional news source disappears for the island to be left with a bunch of ubiquitous yes men.

Is this a harbinger of things to come?

Do the math.

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“Why do you lie?”

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Get this: The GDN publisher Anwar Abdulrahman objects to Jackson Diehl article in the Washington Post published on 3 Jan 2011. Rich? Of course!

I like how he almost always starts by a historical reference to probably demonstrate his intellectual superiority. This time, he invokes the ghost of Lord Northcliffe‘s rather insipid quote of “the power of the press is very great” – he might as well have invoked Fred Flintstone’s “yabba dabba doo” for all the difference it would make to his “column”. The latter quote might have even been more appropriate as it would be uttered just before indulging in his favour pastime of resolute brown-nosing.

Typical of the man, he leaves the essence of Deihl’s piece an engages in a hatchet job against the man himself:

It is important here to explain to readers a little about this man.

Jackson Diehl is a recognised and vehement Zionist supporter who strongly opposes President Obama’s rejection of Israeli settlements expansion.

In fact, The Zionist Organisation of America recently praised his “powerful opinion pieces”.

His track record on Iraq is equally questionable, for Diehl’s columns as the Post’s foreign affairs ‘guru’ were wrong on just about every key issue.

He didn’t seem to consider that serious problems might arise in the aftermath of invasion. When they did, he not once acknowledged that his own analysis had been totally flawed, but instead blamed poor execution by the administration for everything he failed to foresee.

Having explained something of this journalist’s background, based on solid information obtained from the most reliable sources, I ask the Post’s key executives how they have allowed their respectable newspaper to sink into such a quagmire?

GDN 11.1.11

and then he doesn’t stop there, he runs to the principal to tell and to:

In fact, I also implore the American Embassy to protect the reputation of its Press by vigorously pursuing this matter with Washington Post top brass, who should root out such lying and irresponsible journalists.

Maybe the outgoing US Ambassador or his Press Attaché would come over and comment on this request. Not speaking in their name for a second, I would rather think that it’s not in their mandate to monitor nor to pursue matters such as these with a paper’s top brass. Regardless of how vigorous their pursuit might be, I would hazard an educated guess that they would be chased and hounded out of any press offices in the States if they even dared suggest such a thing. They probably would rather be nailed to a cross in the middle of Times Square rather than suffer such a fate. But our interesting learned gentleman forgets that the press in the States is generally not available for sale and corrupt practices like his very own publications are.

He continues with this choice insult:

It is universally known that an average American’s knowledge of the outside world is limited – and that includes its intelligentsia – but for one of the country’s top newspapers to display such ignorance of global events is unacceptable.

I feel very sad at the base standards of such American reporting, which is even reflected to some extent in Newsweek magazine, where a cartoon was published depicting the general political awareness of Americans.

I should think that rather than the US Embassy and the Press answering to his first fervent request to curtail the press, they would take more umbrage with the above ridiculous statements. What they will do about it remains to be seen.

Remember what I said before about the value of good press in a country? Well, Mr. Abdulrahman’s article copiously demonstrates what’s wrong with our press and how we will never progress sufficiently with crap like this being spewed about in it. Just keep in mind as you read his comment, please, what journalistic ethics he employed to come up with that tripe.

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EIU: Bahrain more democratic

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In a GDN report entitled “Democracy Is Taking Root” this morning, it shows that Bahrain’s democracy has climbed fully eight ranks from 130 in 2008 to 122 this year according to an EIU report:

BAHRAIN is more democratic now than it was two years ago, according to a report by a leading research and analysis organisation.

The country climbed eight places in the Democracy Index 2010, which is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and covers 162 countries.

Bahrain was ranked as the 122nd most democratic country in the report, up from 130 in 2008, and scored 3.49 out of 10 on the report’s democracy scale.

However, if you read the actual report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, you will notice a few things that the GDN piece chose not to highlight; the first is the actual title of the report: “Democracy Index 2010: Democracy in Retreat“. The second is that the report should have investigated as to the reason for this benevolence while they and I certainly know that happenings over the past two years especially did not do democracy nor the promised reforms any favours. The recent corruption report is just one single case in point.

They should – if they used any journalistic ethics, that is – should have highlighted that this “improvement” is because other countries in the region having regressed even more than we have and that the general trend in this region continues to be authoritarian with the vestiges of democracy being minimal at best:

The average score of countries in the region declined from an already very low 3.54 in 2008 to 3.43 in 2010, almost a point below the next lowest-scoring region, Sub-Saharan Africa. The only improvement of any note between 2008 and 2010 occurred in Kuwait, which rose by 15 places in the global rankings to 114th. Kuwait improved as its parliamentary system—the most advanced in the Gulf, although still not able to check seriously the emir’s executive power—continued to mature and press freedoms also strengthened.

One of the reasons for democracy actually NOT taking root in our countries is specifically because journalists and the media refuse to rise up and do their duties in highlighting corruption, taking the government to task, demand access to information and the inculcation of transparency.

What we actually have here, and the GDN is one of those to blame in this country, is putting advertising revenues and subscriptions first and foremost rather than the attendance to noble journalistic calling. What they do as a matter of course is blindly drum up support for corruption and shy from reporting anything which might affect their revenues rather than fight it in every way possible; hence, the propagation of paper-bag journalism. So much so that the rallying cry of these so called journalists and media organisations has become: “Do you want an article with that, sir?”.

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GDN stoops to another low

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Just in case the “journalists” in the local rag forgot what Journalistic Ethics actually are, here’s a good place to start. However, I’m sure that both “ethics” and “journalism” is far from their minds. What’s closest, is enriching themselves via their chosen “contribution” to Bahrain’s development and political well-being: brown-nosing.

WASHINGTON: The GDN has been praised for its involvement in Tuesday’s meeting on Bahrain’s human rights record at Georgetown University.

One report, by US observers present at the event, singles out the newspaper for praise, describing the highlight of the evening as the moment discussions turned into a debate when GDN news editor Robert Smith challenged Human Rights Watch’s Joe Stork, who had earlier played down the terrorist threat facing Bahrain as a few instances of tyre burning.

“You refer to the violence and say it is not hi-tech and almost play it down,” said Mr Smith.

[link]

Oh for all that’s holy Bob! What the hell were you on? Your job is to report the news. The government has it’s own MUCH more powerful and highly paid stooges to do its bidding and doesn’t need YOU to leap to its defence! Your job, my dear friend, is to enjoy the paid trip to the World’s capital, “wash your liver” as we fondly say in Bahrain by enjoying the scenery and breath of fresh, free, and unencumbered air, report the news – as I presume this is what you’re actually paid to do – and shy away from making the news!

What happened? Your chairman’s charm and specific brand of wet brown-nosing got to you? Have you also forgotten that other than using your sad excuse for the destruction of some trees somewhere in the world and actually putting what you produce to good use by lining the bottoms of bird cages, your precious “publication” is nothing more than a brown-paper envelope sans creativity and “news”?

You might also have forgotten that we – the public – actually do peruse real sources of news? Like this one for example, which, coincidentally didn’t “leap” to anyone’s defence and did the honourable journalistic thing by reminding their government of the error of their ways:

ONCE AGAIN a pro-Western Arab regime is engaged in a wave of repression against its domestic opponents — and once again, the Obama administration has been struggling to find its voice. The subject this time is Bahrain, an island emirate in the Persian Gulf that is host to the U.S. Fifth Fleet. For most of the past decade the country’s ruling al-Khalifa family has been boasting of its steps toward democracy; parliamentary elections are scheduled for Saturday. But Bahrain’s Sunni rulers are worried about the country’s restless Shiite majority, especially as the power of nearby Iran waxes.

When Shiite youth began staging street demonstrations this summer, the regime seized the opportunity to crack down. Hundreds of suspected activists were rounded up, and 23 leaders of the Shiite opposition — including two clerics and a prominent blogger — were charged under anti-terrorism laws with trying to overthrow the government. A human rights group that has received U.S. funding and that was planning to monitor this weekend’s election was taken over by a government ministry.

[Washington Post]

For god’s sake. The shit that’s happening in this country is getting quite old and tiring. And with all the papers and “journalists” abrogating their responsibilities and cowardly propagating the manufactured tripe, this country will never get any better.

Journalism is a sacred duty, not just a vocation to make money off of.

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US State Dept Censures Bahrain

HM's Media Advisor Mr. Nabeel Al-Hamar, Esq. advised to get a better translator for his paper.
Some of our illustrious press carried a doctored translation in Arabic of what the US State Department spokesman said when asked about the deteriorating security situation in Bahrain. In some of the local press, Facebooked by his majesty’s media advisor and Al-Ayam Media Empire owner Nabeel Al-Hamar (see screenshot) said:

أعرب المتحدث باسم وزارة الخارجية الأمريكية فيليب كراولي خلال اللقاء الصحفي اليومي بالوزارة يوم 16 سبتمبر الجاري عن اهتمام بلاده بالأحداث الأمنية التي شهدتها مملكة البحرين مؤخرا.
وأكد كراولي في رده على سؤال صحفي بهذا الشأن، بأن الولايات المتحدة لديها ثقة بأن البحرين تتطور في طريق النماء والأمن والديمقراطية.

Al-Ayam · 17 Sept 2010

The spokesman for the U.S. State Department Philip Crowley during the meeting, the ministry’s daily press on 16 September for his country’s interest by security incidents witnessed by the Kingdom of Bahrain recently.
The Crowley in response to a reporter’s question in this regard, that the United States to have confidence that Bahrain is developing in the way of development, security and democracy.

undoctored Google translation

UPDATE:
Official Arabic translation via Radio Sawa which does express the same sentiments as in the original English text:

قلق أميركي من اعتقال عدد من عناصر المعارضة في البحرين
16/09/2010 01:02 (توقيت غرينتش)
أعربت الخارجية الأميركية عن قلقها من اعتقال عدد من عناصر المعارضة في البحرين على خلفية اتهامات بالسعي لقلب نظام الحكم في البلاد. وقال المتحدث كراولي:
“نحن على اتصال مع السلطات البحرينية وقد عبرنا لهم قلقنا حيال ذلك الأمر، وفي نفس الوقت لدينا ثقة استقيناها من المسؤولين في البحرين وهي أن بلادهم ينبغي ألا تختار بين الأمن والديموقراطية، هذه هي رسالتنا إلى الحكومة في البحرين.”

وقد تمت الاعتقالات قبل أشهر من الانتخابات التشريعية في البحرين.

Radio Sawa

Compare that with what was actually said and which is clearly available in the transcript of the source video from the US State Department’s website:

QUESTION: There has been a string of arrests of opposition figures in Bahrain in recent days. Human rights groups are also alleging police torture, and this is all seen as sort of a clampdown ahead of elections in a couple months’ time. Given the close relations between Bahrain and the United States, do you have anything to say about this?

MR. CROWLEY: This is something that we are in touch with Bahraini authorities and have expressed our concern. At the same time, we have confidence as Bahrain evolves that you don’t have to make a choice between security and democracy, and that this is the message that we’re sending to the government.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe the government’s claim that these opposition figures were trying to sort of arrange a coup against the royal family?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that we’re aware of any information along those lines for —

US State Dept transcript of Daily Press Briefing on 15 Sept 2010

So please don’t treat us like morons who can’t find sources or people who don’t have the intelligence to discern the truth when it’s staring us in the face.

If you need a Journalistic Code of Ethics to follow, or use as a guide to create your own, here’s a good resource which you might do well to consider.

Mr. Al-Hamar and his empire appears to follow the very same trend of his Egyptian friends.

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Wir werden uns wiedersehen, Berlin

As I leave this lovely city and bid adieux to new friends, its time for a reflection.

I came here at the invitation of the German government’s Foreign Office through their embassy in Bahrain. I came rather hesitantly as I had to take ten full days off work at a time where we’re rather busy preparing for an important project. It took some convincing but I’m now very glad that I accepted to participate. Of course this would not have happened without the excellent team running the office, they’ve really stepped up to the mark, which not only made the trip possible, but actually quite pleasant and without worry.

Nevertheless, I felt that 10 days for a conference is far too long. Normally I would attend a 3 day conference and be itching to return home at the end the first day! That feeling was shared by my colleagues here too, but when the time came to wrap up, we all felt glad to have been invited for this period. In 3 days you hardly start forming a relationship, while the 10 days gave us good time to get know each other, explore Berlin and participate in many cultural activities. It gave us the chance to gel together as a group and become good friends.

The program prepared for us was comprehensive, but not overwhelming, it was designed to give us time to enjoy each other’s company while visiting various Berlin venues and cultural events. The program’s structure and contents were outstanding with obviously a lot of thought put into it to make it relevant to us all.

From a naturally skeptical crowd, the tone and quality of the next ten days were set on the first day of business with excellent presentations from some of the luminaries of the field. The first day brought us in contact with the German political blogging scene through Robin Meyer-Lucht, a communication scientist who runs the influential carta.info, a group blog with some 40 contributing writers, 3 editors and one editorial assistant. The editorial staff are fully employed by the site. The site now serves about 60,000 unique users per month and is monetised by using various techniques. It is currently experimenting with both Kashingle and Flattr as new revenue streams and the initial results are encouraging.

Overall, in Robin’s estimate, the German political blogosphere, although still evolving, is driven by passionate bloggers who have become influential in the field. Business enterprises and their supporting services like some PR agencies hoped to ride the blog popularity wave by initiating their own blogs and twitter streams but have been largely discredited as “astroturfers” whose intention is to create content which migrate appear genuine at first, but ultimately shown as either subtle or brash attempts at promoting a product, service or business, something bloggers and general Internet consumers find distasteful if not deceitful.

The German blogosphere is no different from the worldwide phenomenon. It too has its memes, aggregation sites which provide an easier way for consumers to find relevant content quickly and offer an appropriate venue to expose new blogs and of course the obligator rankings, be those generated non officially or through established ranking sites like Technorati.

When it comes to the legal structure of blogging; however, the situation can seem quite daunting to the uninitiated. If not farcical at times, but as those gathered for the seminar are political bloggers with each one of them with experiences running into the law, Jan Mönikes presentation was eagerly awaited, even though some started with the usual skepticism, once Jan got going, his engaging style and relevant information presented soon captured our full attention. I know some have emphatically commented that it was t he most important presentation in the whole program.

The third and forth presentations after lunch were equally interesting. One dealt with the political blogging scene in Germany presented by Jens Berger of http://www.spiegelfechter.de and the other was about the relation between citizen journalism and classical journalism in Germany by Matthias Spielkamp of www.immateriblog.de which generated an intense debate given that his topic is the classic goading cry for bloggers: “relation between citizen journalism and classical journalism in Germany”. He almost got lynched! The end result; however, is that everyone had his own opinion about the subject with no clear resolution being adopted, as expected. It was a lot of fun though!

Saturday and Sunday were tour and food time. We were given a guided tour of Berlin and the Heavens cooperated as well by making the tour authentic. It incessantly rained! That gave me the chance to prove that my Canon 50D is good for use underwater without modification. It still works!

Checkpoint Charlie

To make every meeting opportunity fruitful, the organisers always included relevant and interesting people for us to meet and talk with. On Sunday’s dinner we were joined by Germany’s Managing Director of Reporters Without Borders, Mr. Christian Rickerts, whose experiences he shared together with the various cases his office handles, from championing the freedoms to express oneself through to actively helping defenders, journalists and bloggers who have fallen foul with their governments, and boy those are many. It seemed to me that the whole world has increased the pressure on basic human rights freedoms, or is it because of modern communications that we actually get to hear of them more often now?

Guided Tour of the Stasi Archive

The hairs on my neck stood stiff when I first read that activity in our program. A natural unmitigated revulsion for the idea of state organised spying. That feeling was made even more so when one realizes that the perception of what happened in the GDR, is still being actively pursued by various governments around the world. With the most oppressive now neatly contained in our lovely patch, one doesn’t need much imagination to know what’s being kept on whom, and the natural instinct to continuously look over one’s shoulder is not alien at all.

But Germany did something better with this. After reunification and against concerted efforts to destroy the millions of records, the new government preserved them with the clear intention of transparency and making those records available to their owners. Germans could still individually apply to the BStU Archiv to find out if the Stasi did have them under surveillance and wether the record is available for their viewing. A lot of people apparently took the opportunity to look into their lives from the Stasi’s point of view. That experience brought with it painful discoveries; some of those who gave up information and informed on them were in some cases not only colleagues and friends, but close family members like spouses, siblings and parents.

Archives the Stassi left behind

There are many warehouses full of these records all over Germany. The Berlin bureaus for instance contains some 18 million records. If just the A5-sized index cards were placed side-by-side, it is estimated that the resulting line would extend 5,000 kilometers! Of course those cards led to other confidential cards leading to various folders kept on individuals. Apart from the paper trail, the Stasi also kept film, photographs (over a million in Berlin alone), video, audio and probably some DNA samples all of which were meticulously categorized and cross-referenced.

These centres now offer deep research material of the era where several scholars are investigating. What they will get out of it will probably be very interesting to note. One of the results of these research efforts I should think is to preserve the German consciousness so that this kind of unauthorised state spying will never happen again.

I promise you that the hairs on the back of my neck continued in their erection and the sense of revulsion at such methodical voyeurism by the state never left me while we were at the BStU Archiv. Yes, I know it’s over now and Germany has made huge strides at coming to terms with itself, but the over-riding feeling I had then was, if the Stasi did that then, what the hell are our governments doing now, given the plethora of technological devices available at their fingertips now?

The visit to the BStU Archiv convinced me more than ever that legislation must be inculcated which protect against such intrusions. People have a right to their privacy. People have a right to expect and demand transparency from their governments. People have a right to access information. But unfortunately what our parliament here seem to be more content with is the reversal of all of these universal rights.

Does anyone know what’s happened to that legislation that Andrew Hearn wanted to pass through to demand high-court approval before the State Security here spies on people’s communications?

A visit to the source of the news

The afternoon was more pleasant and much closer to our cups of tea I think. After a nice lunch, we visited DPA, the German Press Agency (Deutsche Presse Agentur) and were received by its editor-in-chief and managing director Mr. Christoph Dernbach. Christoph gave us a short presentation about the history of the DPA then opened the floor for questions and answers. Needless to say, we all had many questions. Herr Dernbach was very accommodating and not only answered them comprehensively, but also gave us a tour of his newsrooms. That afternoon was very interesting for me personally and opened my eyes on the mechanics of such organisations.

We also saw how progressive the DPA is. I guess it being independent gives it the opportunity to chart its own paths, and one of those is to provide 300 of its journalists with 300 small video cameras in order for them to produce video content for their subscribers websites! The cameras they received were the small Sony Xacti CG10s. Journalists are of course trained on how to use them in the field, top and tail the material shot if need be then simply upload the raw footage directly to their bureaus in Germany for craft editing. Once the editing is completed, video packages are then released on appropriate websites and sold on to clients.

It’s good to see that “old style journalists” are cajoled into new technologies. They seem to be quite fine with the idea too. I guess to a professional journalist, a video is yet another tool in his quiver and if he can tell a story with the pen, he most certainly will be able to tell it through video as well.

Other than the DPA, we also visited Deutsche Welle TV station and given a guided tour of the facility culminating in a presentation and discussion led by Gabriel Gonzalez, the Project manager of the Deutsche Welle Blog Awards “BOB’s” regarding the awards, which some found controversial.

Deutsche Welle TV BOBs Awards presentation

On another day, we also visited Der Tagesspiegel offices and took a valuable hour of their online chief editor’s time in which we discussed their online strategies and their continuous efforts of integration between print and online. Their overall strategic direction, wisely I think, is to completely remove any distinction between those two worlds and gradually motivate their journalists to be fully conversant with the online world so that they can contribute to either medium whenever required.

Der Tagesspiegel Newspaper Offices

Der Tagesspiegel, like the DPA, also provided their journalists with video cameras to file video reports in the field. In fact, on the same day we visited, they had a journalist abroad who was trying (unsuccessfully at the time, a condition which I hope is resolved by now) to upload video content to their office for editing and processing.

Meeting with the officials

As we were in Berlin at the invitation of their Federal Foreign Office, it was only expected that we would spend some time meeting with their officials, and that we did on several occasions.

IMG_1451

Our first visit to the Federal Foreign Office coincided with a Palestinian delegation visit, I am told that Mahmoud Abbas was there that day, so they were a bit careful in corralling us through the complex to get to our meeting destination. However I did glimpse a press conference in progress on our way out. I didn’t; however, was able to discern who was in it and what it was about.

Motorcade for the Palestinian Delegation

The first Federal Foreign Officer to meet us was Herr Eberhard Pohl, the Deputy Political Director of the Federal Foreign Office who briefed us on their politics a bit, but none of us felt other than his interjections were classic politicospeek. Saying much but stating nothing! Or, as my fiend Milos said in his blog about the occasion:

Welcoming the bloggers by the German Foreign Ministry: “It’s tremendously exciting to meet you. I must say that I don’t often meet bloggers. I even looked up Rasmussen blog last night to see what this blogging thing is!”

Likely translation: “You are the bloggers? Really wish I knew who it arranges these meetings. What are you really? Yeah and I wonder if today we will have eintopf or gulášovka in the cafeteria?”

liberal paraphrasing and help from Mr. Google as my Czech is still not perfect!

For the first time, the Federal Foreign Office has invited a group of 15 internet bloggers from all over the world to Germany. They come from Russia and China, African and Central Asian countries, the Arab region, Latin America and Europe.
Today the flow of information and public debate increasingly take place outside the traditional media. In many parts of the globe this also happens as a consequence of local conditions that impede the work of a free press. Here bloggers take over an important function and confront authoritarian regimes with particular challenges. However, even in countries where press freedom is guaranteed, bloggers enrich the media landscape with their particular take on things.
German Foreign Office blog

I’m glad to say that the other two gentlemen we met at the foreign office were more interesting and most engaging. Herr Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office was demonstrably very passionate about his job, very well travelled and knows his stuff. Although he has taken up this task very recently, he was very aware of our areas, especially the happenings in the former Soviet republics around the Caspian Sea. Not only that, he knew exactly who was imprisoned where and for what! Upon hearing of the death sentence delivered in Singapore against Yong Vui Kong for drug trafficking, he immediately offered to send a letter to the Singaporean president to ask for clemency and to register Germany’s stance against the death penalty. He listened with attention to other bloggers feedback on the human rights situations in their countries and promised to take up various issues at the first opportunity he has when meeting respective countries’ representatives.

The other gentlemen from the Foreign Office we met and have had the pleasure of having lunch with at the Foreign Office International Club was Deputy Minister Herr Michael Zenner, Commissioner for Communication of the Federal Foreign Office, who is also the person directly responsible for inviting us to Berlin. We had a wonderful lunch with him as he was interested in everyone’s story and chatted about his experience with the web and his department’s efforts at modernising the communications structure for the better.

Berlin Blogger Tour 2010 Group Picture

Conclusions

The last day of the tour was interesting. The organisers invited Claus Hesseling to talk to us. Claus is a journalist, lecturer for multi-media and online journalism at inwent and at the Technical University of Berlin.

Final Presentation

Claus split us into teams and got us to do presentations about topics related to the last 10 days’ experience and conclusions which were all very similar more or less. Our team presentation was about the effects of blogs on traditional media and the challenges they face. The presentation is available here should you wish to view the bullet points, but we concluded that generally the German media websites have some growth potential as they are not as advanced as those available in the UK and the States. Examples were given for comparison like The Guardian in the UK and the Washington Post in the States.

We also concluded that the media laws in Germany are obtuse, even though Article 5 of their constitution was – to our mind – quite unambiguous.

Every single one of us enjoyed the trip. What we all agreed on is that we have formed good relationships both with each other and the excellent organisers, specifically Lucien Koch, Lisa Moldenhauer and Deniz Ulusoylu.

We agreed that this initiative must continue as each one of us has a lot to offer and there is excellent potential for us to cooperate. Therefore, we decided to start a group blog which will be dedicated to those invited in this initiative and each of us will frequently post relevant articles. The details of this project are still in discussion, and I shall be happy to share the outcome of these discussions with you once they are concluded.

So even though we started this trip with a lot of skepticism, we end it now with a solid outreach program through which we hope to contribute to world understanding.

On behalf of my colleagues, I wish to thank the German Embassies in the participant’s countries and His Excellency Dr. Hubert Lang, the German Ambassador to Bahrain, the German Foreign Office and Kaiser Communications for making this program happen. They all made this trip unique and completely useful.

We’re so looking forward to doing this again soon and to keep up the momentum gained through the last 10 days. It has been a real pleasure indeed.

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