Revolution like Europeans ’89
from the sheltered editorial office in Berlin to the action in Bagdad
The terrorist attacks on September 2011 not only changed the world, they changed the daily workload of Birgit Svensson. She is a journalist and foreign correspondent for the German “WELT” and “Die Zeit”, but also for the German World Service, among others. Residing in Bagdad and being in charge of eight countries, Svensson is close to the beating heart Middle Eastern politics right now.
by Jennifer Pompe
The eight countries I take care of are Egypt, Syria, Jordanian, Iraq, Yemen and the Gulf States. Currently I work twenty-four seven hours because in all of my countries has the hell broke loose.
We witness here in the Arabic countries something like in those days ’89 in Europe. All is just incredible exciting. I can’t even tell what the most interesting thing on my work is right now. It’s an upheaval, a turning point, a change of regime and a breakdown of regimes all in one. It’s immense that all this happens at the same time. My daily workload is just working without cease. I can’t describe how fascinating it is to be that close to the action in the Arabic World.
Aftermath of the attacks in 9/11
I can really say that the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York changed my whole life as journalist. A decade ago, I was an editor in Berlin. I sat in my warm editorial office and edit the whole world on my desk. Now, I’m on the other side and really experience what happen outside. In the last years I have a focus on the Iraq. I know that living in Bagdad is quite risky. I lived there once before in 2006 and I know that especially for us as journalists this place is partly one of the most dangerous locations of the world.
Social Media as window on the world
As for the future, I don’t know what comes next. Living in the 21st century means living in a fast-changing world, as you can see in my field as journalist. There are new information sources like Twitter and Facebook, but I know that social media won’t replace real journalists like me.
Principally I’m a vehement opponent of Facebook. I think that people disclose too much from themselves in the web. Though I have to admit that in societies like here – in such private societies – Facebook and Twitter is the window on the world. I noticed two boys here in Bagdad which were so happy and euphoric to have friends from all over the world. That’s the positive side of social media. The negative aspect though is that this could also lead the youth to isolation. They spend more time in front of their computers, instead of hanging out with their friends and their families.
Unfortunately I recognize that especially young editors depend on social media. I really try to issue a warning to take social media as only source. These sources are not reliable and serious. Here I can gather from my experiences in Bagdad. You can find videos on Twitter or Facebook which are fake or produced on purpose to influence people or lead them in a specific direction. This could be dangerous for people who trust these kinds of media.
Responsibility for the world outside
In the future evaluating and classifying the mass of different media will be one of the issues, my colleagues and I have to manage. For reliable news you need people on the spot, which know her tasks and work professional. In my opinion there will always be traditional media as well as untrustworthy. The important thing is to be able to choose the reliable one. Especially in times and places like here in Bagdad is it important to decide between true and false. Not only for our selves, but also because we journalists have the responsibility for the world outside.