The project “Dear Germany” by Deutsche Welle (DW) puts a spotlight on five journalists who had to flee their home countries for fear of persecution. They now try to build a new life in Germany, aiming to continue their passion for journalism without fear.
“This project gives us hope”, Moses Ebokorait from Uganda said, adding, “You feel like you have to finally be productive again.” Ebokorait is an investigative journalist. In his home country in east Africa, he reported about corruption and nepotism. The job was dangerous and he had to pay “a high price” for it.
During his trip to Germany, he learned from his editor-in-chief that the military was searching for him at this home. Ebokorait thus applied for asylum and was allowed to stay. The journalist has been living in Germany for eight years now. His new life is safe, but certainly not easy. He hasn't been able to reestablish himself in his career yet. Instead, he creates websites and blogs, but still needs to depend on social assistance for his expenses.
Many other journalists like Ebokorait have had to leave their countries. They come from war-torn nations or were persecuted for critical reporting as journalists. DW was interested in knowing how they were getting along one, two or even eight years after their escape.
What did they think about their home countries? What frustrated them and what did they hope for? What would it be like if they wrote down everything as a letter to Germany? These ideas gave rise to “Dear Germany”.
Feels like the newsroom again
Five journalists from Syria, Uganda, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Azerbaijan, including the investigative reporter Ebokorait, have been involved in the program. Together with DW, each participant wrote an open letter to Germany. The video accounts of the refugee journalists are as diverse as their resumes.
While they offer deep insights into their lives, some of them have decided to remain undercover due to the fear that that their pending asylum claims could be negatively influenced. What's common among them all is that they have enjoyed their time in the DW newsrooms - both in front of and behind the camera.
Many want to escape - when they can
Committed journalists such as Ebokorait often have to flee repression. For their critical reporting they could be harassed, threatened, persecuted or even killed. Many of them not only fear for themselves but also for their families. This is unfortunately true: media watchdog Reporters without Borders counted 74 deaths among media professionals last year, with 53 of them targeted because of their work. Others died during their deployment.
The most dangerous countries for journalists are Syria, Afghanistan, Mexico, Iraq and Yemen. “But more and more journalists are also fleeing countries such as Azerbaijan and Turkey,” Jens-Uwe Thomas from Reporters without Borders said. Critical and independent media are increasingly being targeted and reporters are being threatened or stopped from traveling abroad.
After fleeing for Germany, they have to start all over again and often have to stay goodbye to their dream careers. The loss in reputation weighs them down. “This is certainly frustrating, especially for people with a good reputation in their home country and who were highly regarded”, Thomas said.
Meanwhile, more and more media projects are emerging, which explicitly address journalists. The project “Amal, Berlin,” for example, has refugee journalists from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Egypt reporting on world events. “Refugee Radio” in Stuttgart offers another platform. In spite of these initiatives, only some them will be able to make it as journalists again and earn a living off the profession, Thomas from Reporters without Borders said.
For the journalists in “Dear Germany”, the future remains uncertain. A startup association for refugee journalists, one participant points out, could maybe help out in the job hunt.