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Promoting Democracy by Strengthening the Media - Deutsche Welle

Promoting Democracy by Strengthening the Media - Deutsche Welle

(top) In

(top) In the TV control room: tension and concentration during the program; (bottom) Wintertime: learning without proper heating way we were able to assemble another training group made up of young, highly motivated journalists and university graduates, which restored our sense of optimism. Then winter came. Power failures continuously interrupted the training sessions. Room temperatures well below ten degrees Celsius made our work harder, and there were practically no heaters or ovens in the building. In February came the first decisive stage victory: we managed to produce a tenminute review of the week in both of the country’s official languages, Dari and Pashto. The picture material was supplied by DW-TV. “We would never have thought you would manage it”, was the reaction from some people in the RTA hierarchy. Now, despite the relatively good staffing conditions, it was time to really “get going”. It should not be forgotten that trainees in Germany often get up to two years of training, and already have much higher levels of education. Many of our trainees had got their education in refugee camps in Pakistan or Iran. Against this background, their achievements become all the more impressive. Their willingness to accept the strict work regime we imposed on them was equally impressive: precise schedules, wellorganized working structures, teamwork beyond ethnic lines. Many of these concepts were new to our trainees and getting them across sometimes demanded all our persuasive skills. For example, we had to make clear to our colleagues that it is not important for this job whether someone is Hasara, Uzbek

or Pashto, that it does not matter whether someone is a Shia or a Sunni. This was by no means something we could take for granted. In the beginning, different groups formed in the newsroom and avoided contact with the others. A true team spirit did not possible until everyone sensed and realized that our goals could only be reached if we worked towards them together. “Getting going” meant that the weekly review always had to be finished before Friday and that every other day, a program had to be produced “for the rubbish bin”. One important element of this “dummy production” was the daily manouvers required for constructive criticism. Criticism is a particularly sensitive issue in Afghan culture. It is normal to praise, but criticism is considered unbecoming. The challenge was: how to criticize without breaking the rules of respect? We tried to demonstrate that constructive criticism is an instrument with which failings or weaknesses can be discovered and improvements made. And we succeeded! We observed how our trainees began to apply their critical abilities in co-operation with voice artists, presenters and technicians as part of their constant efforts to make progress and improve the program. On 21 August 2006, the big moment finally arrived. When, in the presence of the Afghan and German foreign ministers, the first program really did get produced without mishap, the relief was huge. We had done it! Not only were the technicians and journalists we had trained full of pride, so too were many other colleagues at Radio Television Afghanistan. Because, for the first time, this state institution was capable of producing international news independently. But the most precious moment for me as the project manager was yet to come. At a meeting of our former trainees with the new Afghan information minister, Karim Khoram, the freshly appointed head of the newsroom, Shahamat Ismaeil, was asked what was special about RTA’s world news. He responded as follows: “Thanks to the help of Deutsche Welle, we are now in a position to apply our own Afghan focus to current events around the world!” 25

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