In the late summer of 2015, a comparatively large number of Syrian refugees arrived in central Europe in an attempt to escape the conditions of war. Within global media and academia, this phenomenon was often referred to as the European refugee “crisis”; by those critical voices who wanted to counter the narrative of refugees being the problem, it was called “the long summer of migration”. In the face of the contradictory responses of European border securitization as well as the highly divisive rhetoric and discourses surrounding this phenomenon, media coverage on forced migration and the representation of the newly arrived individuals has gained increasing attention. In an effort to promote content created by refugees themselves, a group of German and Austrian filmmakers in Salzburg joined forces with newly arrived refugees, including some who were professional journalists and filmmakers, to co-found the project “refugee.tv”.
In this interview, Ayad Salim, one of the founding members of refugee.tv, talks about the origins, development and purpose of the project.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how refugee.tv emerged?
Before I came to Europe, I was a journalist in Iraq for 19 years. I worked for international media associations from Europe and the United States. The initial spark for refugee.tv started when Johannes came to the camp, interested in making a video for a competition he wanted to participate in. He was a media artist, involved with wastecooking at that time. My acquaintances at the camp told him about me and that I am a journalist and a director. When we met, the first groundwork for refugee.tv was laid. We talked and exchanged some ideas and made a video about the daily life at the refugee camp at Moosstraße in Salzburg. After that, we created some ideas to further work together. Then, I met David Gross, who was excited about my experience. We decided to start a project called refugee.tv. The subtitle was “the other perspective”: we wanted this project to be a bridge between the refugees and the society in Salzburg. We wanted to show people the truth about refugees, since they had many misconceptions rooted in the mainstream media coverage about us. We wanted to let people know about the facts and reasons for the flight of refugees.