BEIRUT: Peter Limbourg, director general of Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, is on a whirlwind visit to Lebanon to work with local media partners and also report on the burgeoning refugee situation in the country.
“We (DW) like to work here, we wish it could be like this everywhere. The journalists in Lebanon are very talented, and have an international perspective,” Limbourg told Annahar.
DW's partners in Lebanon are: Annahar, Al Jadeed, Future, Voice of Lebanon, Lebanonfiles, lebanon24 and they work sporadically with LBCI.
The visit by DW’s top executive this weekend, falls on the local observance of Press Martyrs Day, with recent similar observance taking place internationally for World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
Limbourg will spend Saturday at the Tel el Farhoon refugee camp in Ber Elias, in the Bekaa Valley. He noted that Lebanon has much to be proud of in providing haven for over a million refugees from the Syrian war.
“It’s an amazing thing Lebanon did in hosting so many refugees,” Limbourg said.
Having a presence in Lebanon is a must from Limbourg’s perspective, who added, “It is such an important country in the region,” adding “It has so many different religious groups – and despite there being problems – it’s a country where the society still works.”
Deutsche Welle has headed towards a decided increase in digitalization, with part of this strategy including partnering with more than 4,000 media outlets around the world.
“This is a first in international broadcasting. And an important step in recognizing the value of the contribution of regional partners,” said Limbourg at last year's Global Media Forum in Bonn. “We truly appreciate the local expertise and perspective which our regional partners contribute."
As part of DW's ongoing global expansion it has markedly enlarged its foreign language broadcasts, including operating a busy Arabic language service in conjunction with a number of Middle East partners. The German broadcaster offers extensive services to the audience in the Arab world, including broadcasting 24-hours of Arabic-language programming daily, which can be received via Nilesat 102 and Badr-4 throughout the region.
This includes one television channel dedicated to broadcasting in Arabic slated specifically for the region's millions of refugees, here and in Europe.
Also at www.dw.de/arabic, DW’s Arabic online portal, users can access texts, audio and video material. Its offerings on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among Deutsche Welle's most successful and fastest growing services. DW cooperates with numerous TV networks, online portals and social media partners in the region, as well as producing radio offerings for partner stations in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Overall, DW broadcasts in 30 languages.
Limbourg noted that DW’s reporting is two way street, both in reporting about German politics and society to the world, but also reporting regional coverage about the Middle East and elsewhere to those regions reached by its broadcast. Which is almost everywhere.
Of its European coverage, Limbourg said that “People in the Arab world have an incredible interest in who will win” the key elections coming up in France and later this year in Germany.
He pointed out that both elections are of great interest to the Arab community for both the refugee issue and the issue of Islamaphobia.
It is, however, in its regional coverage where the relationships and perceptions of DW are sometimes rocky. with various pro-regime factions of Egyptian media outlets accusing earlier this year that the broadcaster was "hostile" against Egypt and disproportionately giving voice to opposition views within Egypt.
Limbourg responded at the time in a statement that said,”Deutsche Welle is proud of its reputation in the Arab world for presenting balanced news coverage and allowing both the government and opposition representatives alike to express their views."
He added, "Deutsche Welle operates independently and enjoys great credibility worldwide. Our Arabic section works for its readers and viewers in Egypt and is certainly not [operating] against this country. "
The above, though, is more the anomaly that the rule - and perhaps inevitable in a region marked by so many factions and sectarian squabbles - with DW finding a growing viewership of its Arabic service.
Additionally, the broadcaster has expanded its offerings into education, with the DW "Akademie" operating a worldwide training school for aspiring journalists with the mandate of promoting media development.
With operations in approximately 50 countries around the world - including Lebanon -- the educational programs hosted by the school notes on its website “ Our goal is to help develop free, diverse and independent media landscapes. To achieve this, we rely on strong partnerships with a variety of stakeholders. And we are well aware that a long-term investment is necessary if we want our work to produce measurable - and sustainable - results. ”
Among other training work in Lebanon, the DW-run school is working in the Sabra-Shatila camp to train 14 teenagers to become video journalists.
“Being the head of Deutsche Welle is one of the best media jobs you can have in the world,” Limbourg said, adding that in addition to (the broadcaster) handling coverage of a diverse portfolio of regional and global issues, is that it is his aim that DW, “Lays a path of better understanding around the world.”
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