Broadcasting the Middle East

„This was Volker Schwenck from Cairo. Now back to you!“ As a foreign correspondent one has the important role to explain political and social developments to the domestic public, stepping to the center of action whenever the situation requires it. In the Middle East region this was the case quite frequently over the last years. Therefore Volker Schwenck and his ARD-Team in Cairo became familiar faces and voices to the German television viewer being responsible for almost the entire region. On Monday, 26th of October, about 20 German scholarship holders had the opportunity to visit the ARD Studio, have the work routine of the journalists explained to them and discuss the current situation in Egypt with the experts.

The excursion took place as part of the “go-out!”-program and was accompanied by DAAD staff members Irene El-Khorazaty and Amira Elwy. The participants were astounded by the inconspicuousness of the ARD-Studio from the outside being located at the 13th floor of a regular residential building in downtown Cairo. On the inside, though, the newsroom-atmosphere became obvious to the students, who got a glimpse of not only the editorial office, but also the cutting rooms, speaker booth and the balcony which serves as setting for the live broadcast from Cairo. Certainly in memory is the scene of Jörg Armbruster announcing the stepdown of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 from that exact balcony that now offered a unique photo motive to the participants.

The present ARD staff – besides the two correspondents – consists of three producers supporting the journalists at keeping up with the news flow as well as with knowledge about Arabic language and culture, and a team of camera operators and cutters. The journalists answered the questions of the students who were interested in matters of work procedure as well as in assessments of the political situation. Schwenck stressed how activity in Egypt has changed over the past few years, going from an extremely busy and eventful phase during the revolution to a very quiet state, that is preserved by a great detachment of military and police securing safety at the expense of values like freedom and democracy.

Besides Egypt the ARD Cairo office covers 14 more countries of the Arabic world which means an enormous range of responsibility for the journalists. Schwenck and his colleagues reported on their work in different crisis regions from Northern Syria, to Iraq and South Sudan and emphasized the importance of reliable contact persons in those areas. Nevertheless even long-standing contacts cannot eliminate the residual risk, said Schwenck, and so foreign assignments – just as the evaluation of the reliability of news sources – remain a balancing act.

The visit at the ARD studios offered the students a unique glimpse behind the scenes of news reporting that will – thus far planned – be complemented by the visit of an Egyptian editorial office rounding up the two-way view on broadcasting the Middle East region.

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