World Refugee Day is gone. But as for every global awareness day, the struggle for those concerned lasts all year round. Menac wants to highlight the destiny and work of exiled colleagues and the importance of including them into a global journalist community.
By Pascale Müller
Hundreds of media professionals and citizen journalists have been forced to flee Syria since 2011. With a death toll of at least 51 professional journalists and 144 citizen journalists, with at least 50 journalists missing or detained by various groups, according to Reporter Without Borders (RSF), they face the choice of exile or death.
But even though Syria is the most horrendous example of journalists persecution, colleagues worldwide are forced to leave their countries for safety reasons. Such as Sanna Camara from Gambia, Idrak Abbasov, from Azerbaijan, Bob Rugurika, from Burundi and Sevgi Akarçeşme, an editor from Turkey, all featured in a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists from June 20.
Against this bigger picture our committee is just a very small and one could say powerless actor. But we believe that we can make a small change by giving our exiled colleagues a platform and inviting them to be part of an international network. Having team members, who have faced persecution due to their journalistic work, we understand the risks, that exist, especially for young freelancers, the majority of people we work with and for.
In our upcoming training “Inclusive Media” for female journalists in Amman, both trainers Arzu Geybulla and Rula Asad are working in a constant state of exile. Arzu cannot enter her home country Azerbaijan anymore, as she is prosecuted for her journalistic work. Rula realised she could not return to Syria, while staying in Germany in 2012. Luckily both found ways to stay journalists outside of their home country and we are more than glad to have such strong reporters, as part of our training and network.
For many of our colleagues, having to leave or flee one’s country comes with great professional, personal and emotional challenges. Some struggle with language barriers, the core of their work, not few are unable to work in the country they flee to. They are literally stripped of words to make sense of their world. Being born and raised in Germany, this reminds me of the German and Jewish exile literature that constitutes a genre in it’s own rights. Before and during the rule of the NSDAP, German and German-Jewish writers, such as Klaus and Heinrich Mann or Noble prize winner Nelly Sachs had been forced to flee the country. Many never found back their words in exile or after return. A whole generation of writers was rendered speechless.
This is why I believe that it is important today, that we stand in solidarity with our colleagues in exile, that we support them and make them feel part of a global journalist community. That we give them opportunities to continue their work. That they are not rendered silent by the experience and loss that exile signifies. They are important messengers between two societies and enrich our national media landscapes with their angles and insight. And we should be eager to listen.
Are you a young journalist, citizen journalist or blogger writing, producing, filming in exile? Get in touch with us and we share your story.
About the author: Pascale Müller is a multimedia reporter and coordinator of menac, based in Berlin. She holds a B.A. in sociology, graduated from the German journalism school Günter Dahl and studied in the Master Erasmus Mundus at the Danish Media and Journalism School (DMJX). Employers include Der Spiegel, Tagesspiegel, Jordan Times, Syria Deeply, ProJourno, and others. Pascale lived and worked as a journalist in Europe and the Middle East. She mostly writes about migration, politics, women’s rights and loves longform in all formats.