Alan Rusbridger on Journalism

I was just flipping through my youtube channel and re-organizing it, when I found this video interview I did 3 years ago with Alan Rusbridger. Alan by then he “only” represented The Guardian – today he is celebrated all over the world as THE idol of honest, sometimes painful investigative, open and “disobedient” journalism. He was deeply involved in the wikileaks reports and is currently a central figure in the Edward Snowden case. Alan was accused of having broken Britain’s terror laws and found himself the subject of extraordinary questioning during a heated session of the Home Affairs Select Committee as MPs probed the circumstances surrounding the newspaper’s disclosure of secret security files leaked by American Edward Snowden.

Cinema Jenin – Is this the end?

I am shocked while I am reading these lines

And I am not sure what shocked me more: the lousy kind of journalism – obviously DEUTSCHLANDRADIO didn’t do any qualified research on the subject – or the fact that Marcus Vetter should have said, that the situation in Jenin is too insecure to bring volunteers.

But first things first.

Right from the beginning I was a big supporter of Cinema Jenin – you can follow up here and here on various articles I’ve written and interviews I’ve done. After the opening event I’ve been 3 times to Jenin in various missions and I know some of the people there quite well.

Marcus Vetter, a German documentary film maker did this heart breaking movie “Heart of Jenin“. During the shooting the idea was born to re-build a cinema in Jenin which was closed during the intifada in 1987 (I think). He founded a “Verein”, raised a lot of money and in August 2010 there was a grand opening of Cinema Jenin screening Marcus’ film: Heart of Jenin. A very emotional moment for each and everybody who was involved. This opening should have marked a beginning. The beginning of the project Cinema Jenin – a cinema which helps the people in Jenin and which provides a space where creativity can emerge. The cinema was re-built for the local people.

So what happened?

Unfortunately here the DEUTSCHLANDRADIO article ends by saying that Fahkri, the ex-manager of Cinema Jenin is now in Germany, the situation in Jenin is too dangerous for volunteers to stay there and the cinema program is no longer running. Full stop!

Here are a few points, which a journalist should at least take into consideration when publishing such an article – very easy to do the research on …  – and believe me, I am not very happy to write the following:

  • I think Fahkri currently can’t go back to Jenin … –  according to what local people are telling me, there are still unpaid bills  from the opening. Many people mentioned that he’d used his position for his personal advantage …
  • Cinema Jenin unfortunately NEVER had a sustainable plan (I remember the discussion at the opening event how it should go on) nor funding to create something like a continuous cinema program or to establish local staff who translate Marcus’ ideas into action.
  • Most of the money which came and is still coming from our ministry of foreign affairs is needed to reduce outstanding debts – unfortunately it can’t be used to build something new! And the budget was huge – 1 million Euros according to many media sources reported.
  • I remember staying at the guest house when one room was flooded by the rain and there wasn`t any money to repair it (March 2010). Volunteers were sleeping in there … they got sick! Maybe that is one of the reasons why they left.
  • The team unfortunately failed in involving the local people – asking them what THEY wanted, supporting THEM with THEIR ideas for the theatre and building something for THEM.
  • The way it was done –  when I look back today – was very much to create a PR-story for the movie Heart of Jenin.
  • I liked very much the idea Marcus once told me to “export” the idea of Cinema Jenin in various parts of the world – but not for the purpose of writing another PR story for the next movie (Africa), but to build something for the people`s need.

I am writing this because I am NOT willing to accept that Cinema Jenin failed because of the insecure situation in Jenin. I agree, it is NOT a tea party there – but I and many of my friends never had any trouble there. People were always friendly and welcoming. I think Cinema Jenin failed because of its insuffcient – I am tempted to say selfish – management.

But there is still hope … even though it’s little.

It hasn’t closed its doors yet!

And believe me – I will be among the first to support the project again when the locals are involved and when their needs become part of it – or even better, when THEY THEMSELF run the cinema.