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‘You're a true friend of press freedom’

Stephanie Höppner
October 20, 2017

How do refugee journalists view their new lives in Germany? In the DW video series "Dear Germany," Azerbaijani journalist Jasur Mammadov tells how he made it - and how it was more difficult than he imagined it to be.

Videoserie Dear Germany Jasur Mammadov
Image: Springer/DW

'You're a true friend of press freedom'

Five journalists from Syria, Uganda, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Azerbaijan have been involved in the "Dear Germany" project. DW wanted to know how they were getting along in Germany, one, two or even several years after their escape. What did they think about their home country? What frustrated them and what did they hope for? What would it be like if they wrote everything down as a letter to Germany? These questions gave rise to the concept of "Dear Germany".

Together with DW, each participant wrote an open letter to Germany. The video accounts of the refugee journalists are as diverse as their resumes.

What is news?

Forty one-year-old Jasur Mammadov came to Azerbaijan three years ago from Germany. Like many other critical journalists in his authoritarian country under President Illham Aliyev, he began to feel more and more under pressure. He now lives with his family in Bielefeld and has managed to get a foothold in his old career, in contrast to many other refugee journalists.

At work, Mammadov doesn’t have to only deal with language problems: "For me, it is often difficult to recognize what is news or not, because compared to my German colleagues, I find other things more exciting," he said. Also building contacts with other journalists - a potential door opener for jobs and other assignments - takes a long time, he added.Now, Mammadov works for a public broadcasting service but he still hasn’t forgotten his origins. On his blog, he reports further on the situation in Azerbaijan.  "In my country, many journalists or activists are in prison," he said in a message to Germany. Others are bribed with expensive gifts or forced to give up due to poor earnings. He is thankful that he could begin working as a journalist again in the shortest possible time. "Germany, you are a true friend of press freedom," he wrote. Now he is pondering starting an association for refugee journalists. "But that takes time," he told DW.

False accusations

The situation in Azerbaijan continues to escalate, according to media watchdog Reporters without Borders. Critical journalists there have to deal with slander charges. In some cases, journalists are put in prison under other pretexts, for example, alleged drug possession or tax evasion. Critical journals are structurally disadvantaged, and cannot be sold, for example, at newsstands. More and more journalists have decided to leave Azerbaijan and several have found a new home in Germany. In Berlin, exiled Azerbaijani blogger Emin Milli set up the television broadcaster Meydan TV.

The most dangerous countries for journalists are Syria, Afghanistan, Mexico, Iraq and Yemen. Reporters without Borders counted 74 deaths among media professionals last year, with 53 of them targeted because of their work. Others died during deployment. The most dangerous countries for journalists are Syria, Afghanistan, Mexico, Iraq and Yemen. But more and more journalists are also fleeing countries such as Azerbaijan and Turkey, Jens-Uwe Thomas from Reporters without Borders said. After their journey to Germany, many of the journalists have to start all over again - and are therefore separated from their dream jobs. The loss in reputation weighs them down. "That is certainly frustrating," Thomas said.  

Dear Germany | A video series in five parts

Concept and execution: Madeleine Meier

Camera and video editing: Madmo Cem Adam Springer

Editor: Verica Spasovska