From war zones to German newsrooms – Syrian journalists report on Leipzig

18. August 2015

In the conflict zone of Aleppo they reported on attacks and destruction – nowadays the journalists Tarek Khello, Ebraheem Alisa Algasam and Mohamed al Khatib investigate in Leipzig.

When Tarek Khello arrived in Germany in December 2013, having escaped from a war zone in Syria he couldn’t speak a single word of German. “Language is my tool”, he said, when describing the experience, “I’d lost it.”

Now, eighteen months later, Khello conducts interviews for the local radio station Mephisto 97.6 in Leipzig. He asks his questions in German – and helps his colleagues in the editorial department with their investigations into the ‘refugee situation’ in Leipzig.

Everyone knows, language means access – to people, to information, to topics.

Khello being shown around the studios of Mephisto 97.6

Khello being shown around the studios of Mephisto 97.6

Lack of language skills or bureaucratic obstacles are not, however, the only hurdles for refugee journalists on their path into German newsrooms.”The media works differently here,” Khello has noticed. Freedom of Information laws, newsdesk, and networks – he wants to learn more about the German media landscape.

For this reason he and other Arabic journalists decided to participate on a project organised by the EIJC: This summer they attended a seminar designed by EIJC Academic Director Dr. Lutz Mükke and Radio and TV journalist Ulrike Werner (MDR) – which features in the M.A. Programme “Radio broadcasting” at the University of Leipzig.

The Syrian journalists worked with Journalism students, not only learning the basics of the media world in Germany but also conducting their own journalistic research. The Syrian journalists reported on their experiences of being a journalist in war zones, discussing, for example, the risks, problems and limitations reporters face, as well as their particular responsibility to their audience.

Animated discussion between German students and Arabic journalists  facilitated  by volunteer interpreters

Animated discussion between German students and Arabic journalists facilitated by volunteer interpreters

With a team of German students Khello produced a report on refugee accommodation, for the local radio Mephisto 97,6;Ebraheem Alisa Algasam was an important interview partner. Another report by Mohamed al Khatib will soon feature in a local magazine.

Khello now has one goal in mind: he wants to work in media. Despite all problems and hurdles he hopes to continue his profession in Germany. After all, as he points out, the topic ‘war in Syria’ has arrived in Germany – journalists like him with a particular language knowledge and perspective could help to improve the German reporting of such topics.


The report online |

>>> „Where the human dignity comes to an end”

by Carlotta Jacobi, Pauline Bombeck, Elisa Marie Rinne and Tarek Khello, Mephisto 97,6, 02.08.2015

The Seminar

The research workshop mentioned in the above text ran at the Institute for Communication and Media Research at the University Leipzig, and also the local radio station Mephisto 97,6. It was designed and coordinated by the European Institute for Journalism and Communication Research (EIJC). Students of Arabic Studies at Leipzig University enabled high level technical communication as volunteer interpreters. Lebanese journalist Whalid Elzein participated as a guest.

International Journalist’s Meetings

The Arabic journalists are members of the “International Journalists’ meeting”. Journalists who have found asylum as refugees in Germany are invited to join the meetings, which offer an opportunity for networking, integration, and discussion. Lectures and talks regarding journalistic work, ethics, media systems and media law, can be provided.„The meeting offers the chance for networking with German Journalists. Interested people are very welcome!“, says EIJC Director Lutz Mükke.
Please subscribe our e-mail list to find out about the meetings: info@eijc.eu

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