Monday, June 20, 2016

Refugee TV gives voice to the voiceless

(Salzburg, Austria) Despite our most conscientious efforts, there are limits to how well journalists can tell refugees’ stories, unless of course they are refugees themselves. That’s the idea behind

According to their website, “ is an act of empowerment. The vision is to create a TV station, which is designed by refugees in cooperation with a German/Austrian film team. The reporters of came to Europe as refugees. Amongst the refugees coming to Europe are many skilled workers, some filmmakers, journalists and camera men. Many refugees had to flee their home country because they were putting the spotlight on problems and injustices in their home countries. provides them a platform to continue their passionate work.” (

I had the privilege of chatting with two correspondents during my recent trip to Europe, and was impressed with their passion and their commitment to their profession and to the plight of refugees.

Ayad Salim is a 45-year old refugee from Iraq. In his fluent English, he told me about his dozens of professional journalism jobs, from reporter to “fixer” for many international news outlets. Like the other correspondents, he volunteers for the channel, and is constantly seeking paying jobs. He’s lived in Salzburg for the last year.

Arman Niamat Ullah (pictured), a 25-year old Afghani refugee, is quick with a smile and a one-liner. He’s been living in Munich for three years, and is eager to discuss his love for storytelling. Arman’s working on a feature film—the first about refugees by refugees, he says. Like Ayad, he produces professional reports for as a volunteer.

During a recent avant garde music and art festival called Interlab, Arman presented and discussed several video stories produced by to a modest gathering. The first, with Ayad reporting, was a tongue-in-cheek outsider’s look at a traditional Austrian festival Krampus featuring costumed demons prancing about. Then, those gathered viewed an outstanding short video reported by Arman from Pireus, Greece (Athens’ nearby port city). This report, featuring refugees discussing their plight, had several audience members wiping their eyes.

As we chatted, I told Arman and Ayad a bit about peace journalism, and the Center for Global Peace Journalism’s recent project in Turkey to improve reporting about Syrian refugees. I mentioned that their work is the very essence of peace journalism. These stories offer a counter-narrative to the  misleading or xenophobic refugee reporting done by some traditional journalists, while simultaneously providing a voice to the voiceless.

You can see Arman and Ayad’s work, and that of their colleagues, at or on their YouTube channel at . Some of the segments are in English, and those that aren’t are subtitled.

I hope to someday collaborate with these talented journalists, and perhaps even engage in a joint peace media project.

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