Archive for March, 2012

Tunisian viaducts

Posted: March 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

I arrived in Tunis last night following a festive two days catching up with a few people in London, and missing a few more.

This is a picture of my street in the Bardo area of Tunis – note the Roman viaduct. I can confirm that this is the first street I’ve lived in with a Roman viaduct, or indeed aquaduct, pending someone explaining the difference to me.


On the way to Tunis via London – I’m currently writing this from Hackney, East London – I was most pleased to squeeze in a stop in Beijing.

In two months I’ll be spending another couple of days there, but this time I literally surprised myself by checking it out while in transit. After last visiting in 2004, I attempted to leave the airport with no visa for around 5 hours, and found success. Within half an hour of getting off the plane I was taking the train to Dongzhimen and on to Yonghegong, hoping the authorities would be none the wiser as to the pro video camera in my hand luggage. I somehow managed to skip past the seemingly compulsory x-ray in customs, and am not sure if a journalist would have been welcome sans Visa.

Needless to say the city seems to have changed a lot since 2004 – no prizes for noticing that – but I couldn’t help but be in awe of the colossal airport and smooth, affordable (well, for tourists like me) express train into the city – compare that with London’s effort which comes in at around $US30.

Here’s the train (I love how the gopro camera captures sunlight pretty well)

Following this I met up with two wandering pals who used to call Sydney home, and they took me for an early morning donkey sandwich and yoghurt in a Hutong on the edge of the city centre. With the trendy looking bars (still shut) and street art/paste ups, it was clearly in the throngs of some serious gentrification. The narrative I’ve been exposed to by The Media is that these cute ‘burbs of Biejing are being torn down for brutal functionalist apartment blocks – but it was nice to see them being kept on in this part of town at least.


We then had a quick espresso and Tsing Tao beer (it was well past 10.30am by this point) and watched the electric scooters whiz by, then the electric buses, before discussing how whatever Western nations say in defence of not taking serious action on C02 emissions, China does seem to be making some considerable efforts on alternatives to fossil fuels. Well, maybe the electric scooters and electric bus are powered by electricity from coal power stations, but for the mean time it’s keeping pollution from the middle of the city, which has to be a good thing; last time I was in China I left more than one town in a coughing fit. Alas, the morning came to an end with me unfortunately adding to the smog by jumping in a cab back to the airport, looking forward to heading back in June.

Well, Friday was my last day in the SBS World News Australia newsroom after two and a half years work as an online journalist. I’m now officially a freelance video journalist. Eek. 

On top of my role producing content for the website, I’m happy that I managed to get oodles of great experience under my belt working as a video journalist. SBS isn’t a huge operation and if you’re willing to do the work, you’ll get recognised – to an extent!

There were nice words from colleagues and bosses on leaving which is a good booster as I work tirelessly (how many emails?) to make contacts in newsrooms around the world before arriving in Tunisia next week.

Well over a year since Tunisia kicked off the Arab Spring, the challenges seem huge, but surmountable. I may, of course, see it differently after living there. Just this weekend 8,000 Salafists are reported to have marched through Tunis calling for Sharia to be the basis for the new constitution. Needless to say the country’s secular elite have grown used to the status quo before the revolution, and won’t give it up easily. 

Itching to hit the ground running, get stuck in to my Arabic course, punch out some nice films on my new Sony NX5/Macbook combination, and kick back over some cous cous – hopefully with some Tunisians. 

A piece I produced for SBS News this week – perhaps the last news story for a while, at least until I return from Tunisia and beg for shifts. 

For the record, E.L.K made the finalists.

As the field of Republican presidential candidates has diminished, it’s lost some of its more gaffe-prone interpreters of US foreign policy.

Rick Perry raised eyebrows when he said that NATO member Turkey was ruled by Islamic terrorists. Herman Cain admitted that he knew little about Ubeki beki beki stan stan. 

On more serious topics – such as Iran and China – there’s some daylight to be found in the stances between the hawkish Rick Santorum, the apparent liberal Mitt Romney, libertarian Ron Paul and veteran lawmaker Newt Gingrich, even if foreign policy as a whole is not central to their campaigns.

I spoke to Dr Adam Lockyer of Sydney University’s US Studies Centre to find out more about their differences.

Read the rest of this post on the SBS site where the head of the US Studies Centre, Brendan O’Connor, also told me that a newcomer could still steal the Republican show.

I got this scoop (ok, not the strongest, but a scoop’s a scoop) for SBS back in October, but forgot about it until recently… Seeing as I’m heading to Tunisia in a few weeks, I’ll repost it here.

The first vote in the first election to emerge from the Arab Spring was cast by a Sydney woman at the Tunisian embassy in Canberra yesterday.

Around the world, Tunisians began heading to the polls on Thursday, with Canberra’s Tunisian Embassy the first to open its polling booths.

“For all the Tunisian people all over the world, the first one who has elected is in Australia,” Ambassador Raouf Chatty told SBS.

“She was very proud, and we’re proud of her.”

“She has exercised her right to vote in free elections … to try and build democracy for the country.”

“It’s a historical moment”, Mr Chatty said.

Mr Chatty said he hoped for freedom, dignity, democracy and social justice for the Tunisian people.

Under the country’s new electoral system, Tunisians living abroad choose 18 of the 217 members of the constituent assembly, spread across six constituencies.

There are ten seats for voters in France, three in Italy, one in Germany, two for the Americas and Europe. For expatriates in Arab nations and  the rest of the world (including Australia), there are two seats.

Almost one million Tunisians live outside of the North African country, with up to 500,000 in France.

Votes cast abroad will be counted on Saturday and the results announced following the close of polls in Tunisia on Sunday.

The ‘Arab Spring’, which has seen revolution and protest spread across North Africa, the Levant and Middle East, was sparked by regime-felling protests in Tunisia over ten months ago.

Original article here. 

For the record – and if you missed it – the Islamic Nahda party won enough seats to lead the governing coalition. 

Here’a s package I made for SBS News this week on changes to Google’s privacy rules, including the response from the Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim. A slight rushjob – had a Skype interview set for 16:30, two hours before deadline – but was more or less ditched for the ABC. That threw me a little; but I made deadline, yo.