Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Media and migration explored; militants dodged
(Klagenfurt, Austria)—It’s not often that I’m looking over my shoulder for protesters—protesters!—at one of my public speeches. However, here in Klagenfurt this week, I was admittedly a bit nervous as I strode to the podium.

You see, just four days earlier, on Thursday, a group of angry, bullhorn wielding far right wing militants, the “Identitarians,”  invaded a symposium about refugees here at Klagenfurt University. They held up a large sign that read, “Integration is a lie,” and scuffled with students and the university’s president, all in an attempt to spread their anti-immigrant hate. Police are investigating a possible assault committed against the president.
Rally in support of migrants, Klagenfurt University

Thus, as we started our symposium on forced migration and media Monday morning, we were naturally a bit nervous, even with a deliberately visible police presence just outside our meeting venue. The symposium, featuring excellent presentations by students and faculty, went off smoothly. The highlight was an enlightening discussion about the vital nature of smartphones for Syrian refugees. Roundtable discussions were held about literature and migration, film and migration, and news media and migration. All were thoughtful and sophisticated.
At the pro-migrant rally, Klagenfurt

The symposium was followed by a large outdoor rally in a nearby square in the afternoon. The rally, organized and lead by students, was titled, “Solidarity with Refugees.” Speakers, including refugees, university administrators, and students, reiterated their empathy and support for refugees. One of their signs said, “No person is illegal.” Certainly, this rally offered a reassuring counterpoint to the ugliness of just four days prior.

Again, there was a visible police presence near the rally site, although no trouble materialized.
By the time my lecture began in the early evening, I didn’t see any police. This could mean either that they forget about my presentation, or that they didn’t think the right wingers would bother with me, which, as it turned out, was correct. My lecture, on Reporting Syrian Refugees, was also delivered without interruption to an interested gathering of students, academics, and members of the public. I presented research about reporting of refugees by European media, and discussed our recent reporting Syrian refugees project in Turkey.

As with my other stops in Austria and Germany, it’s my hope that my stay at Klagenfurt University is the first of many such collaborations.

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