Changing perspectives through media representation: refugee.tv

Ayad Salim, interviewed by Dilara Akarçeşme

The first challenge was the very term refugee. It comprises individuals from a vast number of countries. I, personally, was covering Arabic refugees. We share a lot concerning terrorism, war and instability. For instance, for me, the biggest reason to leave Iraq in spite of my good life there was being a journalist and my religion. I was the chief of the Saudi Arabian channel in Bagdad as well as a political analyst for some channels like Russia Today or France24. I really had a good life and it was not easy to leave it all and flee. However, I had to because militias tried to kill me twice. It was very hard to start from minus – not even from zero. Therefore, my big aim was to provide people with information about the reasons for our presence here. Questions I wanted to elaborate were: ‘What are the features of our culture?’, or ‘What are mutual things between Arabic and European or Austrian culture?’. We found many interesting common features there. Our first report was in October 2015 on borders when in September 2015 many refugees arrived in Salzburg. I had arrived earlier in January in the same year. The first report got a lot of attention.

 

 

Then we grew larger in numbers. More people came to us and more people believed in our project. They loved it. We did many interviews with different organizations and explained who we are, what we are doing and what we are planning to do. It grew so fast until we had an interview in Vienna with ORF. That was our first interview. Then refugee.tv expanded to four cities: Salzburg, Linz, Vienna and Munich. In Salzburg, we established refugee.tv media school, which was a workshop to teach how to work with media, how to use the equipment and how to do reports. We covered many local events, like One Billion Rising or other cultural events. We even formed a music band.

At the first anniversary of refugee.tv, we had an event at ARGEkultur which many people attended. There were even more Austrians than refugees. We got funded by the government and got donations. All in all, the project lasted around two and a half years and it was very successful. We wanted to get bigger and maybe become a channel, but it did not work out. Also, David Gross went to Japan. At that time, it was a good project and it had a very good reputation.

Verein means ‘association’ or ‘club’ in German. These types of organizations are essential for public life and civil society in Austria. Usually they are formed by people who commit themselves to a specific common activity or cause and are run by a specified member structure and statutes.

Servus means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in German and is commonly used in parts of southern Germany and in Austria.

‘Bike kitchen’

Ausländer means ‘foreigner’ or ‘alien’ in German. The word is deliberately kept in German, since it is a significant keyword used in discourses of belonging in German-speaking countries (for example, see https://igkultur.at/artikel/der-auslaender-und-seine-erziehung). In the meantime, migrants from the second or third generation have also critically appropriated the term Ausländer for themselves in various contexts.

‘Warehouse’

‘Cellar’ or ‘basement’

Dilara Akarçeşme, Ayad Salim (2020): Changing perspectives through media representation: refugee.tv. Ayad Salim, interviewed by Dilara Akarçeşme. In: p/art/icipate – Kultur aktiv gestalten #11 , https://www.p-art-icipate.net/changing-perspectives-through-media-representation-refugee-tv/