Posts Tagged ‘Arab world’

After seven weeks of trying, I finally interviewed Ennahda leader Rashid Ghannouchi, who will feature in one or two of the current affairs films I am producing on life in post-revolution Tunisia.

It was quite a privilege – he’s clearly one of the most important Islamists in the world, and perhaps the most important person in Tunisia right now. If it’s policy, he’s had a big say.

Here’s the section where I field a few questions on Ennahda’s stance on press freedom in Tunisia.
Some of these thoughts feature in a piece I wrote on press freedom which appeared in New Matilda.
If you’d like to know more about the films I am making on life for religious minorities in the wake of the revolution, as well as the huge economic and political challenges facing the new government, leave a comment or fire a tweet @billcode

I’ve handed in my notice with SBS News, and although I’d be keen on returning in the mid-term future, all plans are currently focused on Tunisia.

At the end of March I’m switching to freelance journalism, while leaving my young family for a bit and flying to Tunis, where I’m enrolled in an Arabic course. I’ve tried to keep my Arabic study going since returning from Syria last year but it is hard in the middle of Sydney; would Mandarin have been more appropriate?*

I’ll also be working on two current affairs films as a video journalist, which will roughly be on the state of the economy and life for minorities post revolution. I’m taking offers on where to screen them :)

On top of that, I’m hoping to get some articles out around town, so to speak.

I’m currently balancing journalistic planning with travel/accom arrangements and technical requirements (macbook pro purchased, Sony NX5 on order). Five weeks to go.

*Nope, too hard, tried that for a bit. Potentially less useful in Tunisia, also.

This week I met two Syrian Australians whose son had been shot. They feared it may have been due to his backing of Syria’s President Assad in an argument on Facebook. They’re Alawi, originally from the town of Tartous.  The truth is, they didn’t know for sure why he was shot, and the police were none to sure early on either; it was being investigated by the local command in Campsie as well as Operation Spartan, set up to deal with the spate of gun crime in Sydney. We went to Padstow to meet them. In the screenshot below you can see Jamal Daoud – a bit of a get-around-town activist who is keen on portraying the shooting as part of a wider campaign against Assad supporters. Time will tell.

My interest in the Arab world has grown massively this year. I guess I’m not the only journalist saying that- who could fail to be inspired (or at the very least intrigued) by events across the region. We took a trip to Syria (pre-chaos), I’m learning Arabic, and I also have further trips in mind. Below are a couple of pieces of work I’ve put together for SBS in the last month.

First, a map of the year’s developments, using the finicky (but free) Tableau software. It’s hard to get interactive multimedia going in online news without spending any money, but Tableau, if you can get your head around it, is ok; yet not ok enough, it seems, to want to get interactive via the embed code on this blog.  For full interactivity, check it out here. Next, a wrap of the year’s events, with outcomes and approximate death tolls which I’m quite proud of, as it goes into some real depth; every Arab country, from Algeria to Yemen, and not just those which successfully ditched a despot. Here’s a link to that one.

Finally, a slideshow I put together using some of the best agency pics of the year put to a friend’s music. In lieu of visiting the region, a nice multimedia wrap to end the year.

And I almost forgot – a cheeky exclusive on the first woman to cast a vote in an election following the Arab Spring – anywhere – when a Tunisian woman from Sydney cast her vote down here in Australia. Who says nothing happens in Canberra?

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Taken on a Flip HD. Itinerary went Damascus, Palmyra, Aleppo via Hama, Latakia, Krak des Chevalliers, Damascus.

We’ve just returned to Australia after a wholly entertaining – and inspiring – trip to Syria. Here are some photos of our travels.

Top places for me were Aleppo – an orientalist fantasy (that would be mine, then) of Arabs, Kurds, and Armenians living together around a mesmerisingly old and enchanting old city and souk. Syria’s second biggest city, it was not an incredibly easy place to be with a small child (creaky hotel room, slightly more vibey than other Syrian cities) – but I it was breathtaking all the same.

Aleppo at night

Then, Palmyra, with its modern Arab city of Tadmor stuck to it. These ruins in the desert are no normal ancient collection of rock; sand for miles around, the desert becomes littered with debris left by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, whoever. Hard to keep up with all of them.


But perhaps the most interesting part of the trip was the timing. With uprisings across the region, we though twice, indeed thrice, about heading there with our 16-month old son. But having covered the issue extensively at work in the newsroom, I felt on top of the decision to continue. In Syria, all eyes were on Libya. Faces were glued to Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya. Newstands were plastered with Gaddafi. Yet most people were not keen on speaking about Syria – unless, of course, they were prepared to back the regime of Assad – or ‘Bashar’ as he is often affectionately known. The undercurrent of discontent was very difficult to see. But, as events across the country would soon confirm- including Alawi-strong Latakia, where we spent two rain-soaked days overlooking the harbour from which two Iranian warships had just departed – discontent there clearly is. We’re just glad we left in time, and wish the warm-hearted people who made our trip so much fun, all the best.

And the food on the trip – my god, the food. Syria – once it’s calmed down, a brilliant place for a holiday.

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