The first participant of ECPMF’s Journalist-in-Residence programme stayed in Leipzig from April to July 2016 and worked with us as part of the ECPMF team. The journalist comes from a European conflict zone from which reporting must be done undercover.
To be able to continue this work after the return back home, it was decided together with the ECPMF team for the journalist to remain anonymous and not to make the case public, as it was initially foreseen for all participants.
Journalists-in-Residence: The programme of ECPMF provides a safe shelter, a scholarship and health insurance to engaged journalists from Europe, who have come under pressure for six to twelve months; for more information: ecpmf.eu/get-help/journalists-in-residence
How did you experience the months within the Journalists-in-Residence programme?
That was a complete new experience to me. This opportunity was given to me as a journalist from a war zone. Before my stay I felt great pleasure that I could finally live in a peaceful environment without explosions and without fear. At the same time, I was a little bit nervous about the new situation, the new people and the new tasks. But just a few days after my arrival I had the very wonderful feeling to live in a friendly and helpful atmosphere. And this feeling I had in every respect. All organisational and labour issues are here discussed openly. The everyday issues are fully thought through. And also my "broken German" did not hinder me to feel here, like in a family.
What did you do in the ECPMF office?
In the ECPMF office I have done all the duties that belong to our profession. On the one hand, I could describe the situation of the media landscape in the conflict zone for the readers of the ECPMF website. On the other hand, I was able to learn a lot about the new challenges that exist for press freedom in the European countries, also in Germany. At the ECPMF, these issues are discussed constructively and get published afterwards. And the third opportunity was to improve my German, which is also very important for me. Finally, I got offered every opportunity to work freely and so fully satisfying as a journalist: thinking freely, moving freely and exchanging ideas freely. This is absolutely impossible in the war zone.
What was so special about your stay – and why is your case not presented to the public to make people aware of your situation?
After the end of the programme, I will return back home. There, the situation remains repressive and dangerous, especially when we stand up for freedom of expression. That is why I am very grateful to ECPMF for giving priority to my safety. And that is why we have not organised any press coverage or public relations campaign.
How did the JIR-programme help you in your situation?
Above all, I could live with joy again: Without fear of violence, without fear to be a persecuted "spy". For a critical remark about the regime you can already get arrested in the war zone and accused of being a spy. Regarding this aspect, I also obtained very useful support and concrete advice from the centre, reaching from psychological support to education on data protection. This support is continued also after my return. That should help me to continue working as a journalist in the explosive atmosphere of the conflict zone and to report the objective, impartial and truthful picture.
How did you like Leipzig?
In Leipzig I felt very good. Without exaggeration I can say that I fell in love with the city. I am excited about the parks with the many beautiful canals and the nice people. I did not only get to know new interesting people, but also met real friends. It was really a good time for me. It brought me new perspectives and inspired me. I could also think about my future plans.