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Blogging, Berlin, Friendship

May 26, 2010

To tell the truth, in the beginning, when a person form the German Embassy in Bishkek called me and said that I was selected to represent Kyrgyzstan at the Blogger Tour 2010 in Berlin, a 10-day workshop organized by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, my first thought was “OMG, 10 days in Berlin?!” Cuz, after the bloody April events, the situation in Kyrgyzstan was changing every hour and, therefore, I had lots of work to do in terms of reporting at our blogging project neweurasia and working with foreign reporters. But… I decided to go for it.

And I did not regret it. The Tour’s programme was very interesting and useful. I had a chance to meet with high profile officials at the Foreign Office and get to know closer about the mainstream and new media development in Germany. The programme was also not-overloading with too much work. Therefore, it gave me a great chance to explore the life in Berlin – not only the touristic side of it, but also life of ordinary Berliners, which is usually hidden from tourists, their likes, tastes and culture.

And of course, one of the greatest things about the Blogger Tour was that I met 17 great people, whose company I enjoyed whole 10 days! They were all simple, unique, smart and with a great sense of humor (especially Michael (China), who enjoyed his freedom of speech at the Foreign Office, and Mahmoud from Bahrain, who ended up being our Blogger Papa :D). We all ended the Tour not only with strong friendship ties and promises to meet again, but also with an excellent idea of creating a goup blog, which is being discussed and created at the moment, that will be about developments happening in our countries from international perspective, and will have more like a think-tank character. I will write more about it when we launch the blog.

Last, but not least, I want to express special thanks and appreciation to the organizers of the Tour, especially Lisa, Lucien and Deniz, for their commitment in organizing the event and paying great attention and care for every detail, be it big or small. You did an excellent job, my friends!

So here they are – bloggers and organizers… and my dear friends!

Photos and collage made by me.

No words… just emotions…

May 21, 2010
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This is how I felt when I was leaving the Komische Oper in Berlin after watching “Fidelio” there, an opera in two acts by Ludwig van Beethoven, produced by Benedikt von Peter. It was so good that at the end I was 110% emotionally charged. It is definitely one of the greatest cultural experiences I have ever had.

“Fidelio” by Ludwig van Beethoven. Source of photo.

The Komische Oper is not big. It is small, but very cosy, and its stage is very close to front rows. As I was sitting in the middle of the front row, I felt I was in the action of opera myself. Well, it is not fully applicable to compare it to watching a 3D IMAX movie, but it was smth like that – being very close to the action.

The other thing that made “Fidelio” very special is that producers did a great job in merging old with modern. In the beginning of the opera, when the curtain was taken up, we saw a group of workers in modern clothes with modern tools, like electric drills dismantling the scene, I re-read the name of the opera in the program thinking it was not Fidelio. However, when Marzelline (Karen Rettinghaus) started singing, my journey to a fantastic world of old/modern “Fidelio” began. No words, just emotions.

Deep appreciation and non-stop applauses to Anton Keremidtchiev (Don Pizarro), Mirko Janiska (Don Fernando), Caroline Melzer (Leonore), Thomas Ebenstein (Jaquino), Karen Rettinghaus (Marzelline), Will Hartmann (Florestian) for their excellent voice and acting!

Exploring Germany: Human rights and Communication at Federal level

May 20, 2010

Participants (some are absent) of Blogger Tour 2010 at the Federal Foreign Office with Mr. Michael Zenner, Commissioner for Communication at Federal Foreign Office of Germany

Today was definitely one of the most interesting days of the Blogger Tour 2010, as we spent almost all day at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany meeting with Markus Löning, a new Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, and Michael Zenner, Commissioner for Communication at Federal Foreign Office.

You may say “so what? what is so special about it?”. Well, for a person like me with international relations and political science background, who is also extremely interested in human rights and media issues, this is certainly a great experience.

Mr Löning, despite he is new to office, told Germany’s commitment in promoting human rights values around the globe. Answering to my questions, Mr Löning expressed deep concern about human rights issues in Central Asian region, where Germany has often to balance between its interests and commitment to promoting human rights values. He told me that he would pay a visit to Kyrgyzstan in near future, and we decided to organize a meeting with Kyrgyz online activists to talk about human rights and freedom of speech in the country.

Mr Michael Zenner, who kindly invited us for a fancy lunch in the Federal Foreign Office, spoke how his office got interested in social media and blogging. We had a graet lunch talk, where we shared with Mr Zenner our ideas and thoughts about the role of social media on our countires. And it seems Mr. Michael Zenner was pleased by the fact that the Blogger Tour 2010 was a great success in many senses, as it was his department at the Federal Foreign Office that initiated Tour, which turned out to be one of the greatest experiences I have ever had as a blogger. Why?

(a.) Cuz I met 14 awesome bloggers from different parts of the world. I could have met 15, but Cuban authorities did not allow a blogger from Cuba to leave the country to come to Germany. (c.) I had a great chance to meet with German foreign policy makers  and discuss with them the issues taking place in Kyrgyzstan and broader Central Asia region, (b.) I had enough time to explore Berlin. Not the touristic Berlin, but the Berliners’ Berlin, which is not globalized yet by bloody tourists coming from all over the world.

After the lunch with Mr Zenner, we had a small roundtable talk about the idea of creating a group blog of participants of Blogger Tour 2010. Mr Mahmood Al Yousif, aka father blogger, moderated the discussion which resulted in unanimous decision of creating a group blog the content of which will be original and about issues happening in our countries, but from international perspective. We will discuss it more tonight, so keep tuned for more info 🙂

Exploring Germany: Stasi-archive, DPA, DW TV and German politics

May 20, 2010

So as an invited blogger guest by the German Foreign Office, I am continuing exploring Germany first hand. As a part of the Blogger Tour, I, together with other 14 bloggers from all over the world, have paid visits to different interesting and fun places in Berlin:

Stasi-archive in Berlin. Yeah, it is a big place full of old used-to-be-secret paper files.  Yeah, it shows how GDR was tough on its people. But, honestly, I was not really surprized seeing all these secret files the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, shortly Stasi) of GDR opened on people who were against the communist regime in GDR. The tour guide did a great job trying to impress us with astonishing facts on how Stasi officers recruited civilian informants to spy on their close people – friends, parents, siblings or spouses. Well, such things happened often in Central Asia, especially in countries like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, where every security agencies are very developed. So I was not impressed much. But, I really liked the way Germans are preserving these documents, and even giving files’ copies to their subjects! All a person needs to do to look at their Stasi-archive file is to fill an application. Then staff of the archive, which is also a museum now (and Germans are great in creating museums out of everything!), will search for your file, and if there is one, make an appointment with you and show you your file. And most people are very keen to look at their files. Well, who does not want to read the spy reports about them? 🙂

DPA. “Independent, reliable, up-to-the-minute. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year” – that’s how DPA describes itself. DPA is German Press Agency (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) that provides worldwide news to variety of mainstream media organizations, and is competitor of AFP, AP and Reuters. We had a nice talk with Christoph Dernbach, editor-in-chief and managing director at dpa infocom, who told that DPA often works with citizen journalists using new media tools to gather information in places, where they do not have their own reporters. Yet another proof to my thesis that citizen journalism is a great outsourcing for mainstream journalism, not a competitor, as many mainstream media representatives think.

DW TV. Deutsche Welle TV, Germany’s own CNN and BBC, but unlike the latter two, DW TV does not rush after “breaking news”. As Fabian von der Mark, editor at the Television Directorate of DW TV, explained, DW TV tries to give elaborated news that is backed by analyses. We had a short walk around the office of DW TV, and even climbed to its roof that’s full of huge satellite dishes for transmitting news around the globe.

And of course we met Gabriel Gonzalez, project manager of the Deutsche Welle Blog Awards „BOB‘s“. Gabriel told us how BOB’s competition is organized, and what kind of requirements the jury has to blogs. Mahmoud Salem (aka SandMonkey) from Egypt told that some BOB’s jury members are very corrupted, and gave example of a jury from Egypt, who selected winners from his circle of friends.

– We also met with Eberhard Pohl, deputy political director of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany. Unlike other meetings, this one was not liked much by many bloggers. Mr Pohl is a great speaker, but it seems he is one of those politicians who speak a lot and beautiful, but say nothing, or very little. We asked different questions, but most of the answers were in “not-my-field-of-expertise” style.

These are the summary updates on the Blogger Tour 2010, where I am proudly representing Kyrgyzstan. More updates to come soon. Stay tuned!

Blogger Tour 2010: Day 1 – from blogging to Chinese hymen

May 14, 2010

So finally I am here, in beloved Berlin, participating in the Blogger Tour organized by the German Federal Foreign Office. The first day of the event started with a great breakfast in Park Inn hotel, where participants are staying. At the moment, we are in DEPAK – Deutsche Presseakademie – and listening to presentatnios on topic “Blogs  & Politics in Germany”.

Robin Meyer-Lucht, blogger at www.carta.info and first of four speakers on topic “Blogs  & Politics in Germany”, is speaking about their blog and the German blogosphere in general. According to him, the German blogopshere is still evolving and little commercialized, as it is much driven by “passionate authors who treasure their soap boxes” 🙂 Despite this, Robin says, blogs in Germany are becoming increasingly influencial force. As far as I understood, the German blogosphere is mainly about “netpolitics”, media and copyright issues, or talking generally, it is rather about policies than politcs.

Jan Mönikes, expert for German media law and second of four speakers on topic “Blogs  & Politics in Germany”, is doing a presentation on legal framework conditions of online communication in Germany. Jan says that media laws in Germany are very complicated as media is regulated on two levels – state and federal, and there are 16 federal governments. One exception in freedom of speech in Germany – Holocaust! Holocaust denial and propagating nazi symbols is a crime in Germany, says Jan Mönikes. If you are a foreign blogger, and publicly deny Holocaust in your blog, you will be tried in absentia and declared persona non grata. This reminded me of Eynulla Fatullaev, a journalist in Azerbaijan, who was imprisioned because of his article [ru] questioning the trueness of Khojaly massacre. But, unlike in Germany, Azerbaijan does not have a such law.

Blogs in Germany are considered to be mass media! However, as the laws on laws media properly work, it is not as frightening as in Central Asia countries, where laws do not protect media from the authoriarian governments.

But, as Mönikes says, the legal status of bloggers in Germany is still inclear. There is a debate going on whether or not bloggers must be considered as journalists or not. There is strong argument that good-quality bloggers should be given a status of journalist. There are two sides of it: good side is that as “online-media-journalists”, bloggers possess all rights conferred upon the press in Germany. The bad side is that all journalists must respect the “press codex” – a collenction of non-official rules for professional journalism. This includes regulations regarding accurate research and coverage.

Two other presentators were Jens Berger from www.spiegelfechter.de and Mathias Spelkamp from www.immateriblog.de, who talked about their blogging experiences and the difference between citizen journalism and classical journalism in Germany.

The day ended with a great dinner at restaurant Barist, where for some odd reasons we were discussing (a.) Chinese hymens* (!), aka “artificial hymen”, that someone actually could buy in Egypt (!) but unfortunately could never see (!) it in use,  (b.) what it feels like being married, though the married bloggers did not give any strong arguments for the advantages of marriage, (c.) how Uzbek and Azeri languages are very close to each other, and why some Turkish people are getting rid of some arabic words in Turkish, and last but not least, (d.) our plans for tomorrow and the ways to get Nigar drunk as it is her birthday tomorrow!

* It is a thin sheet of plastic that goes inside the woman’s vaginal canal and contains a little pocket of blood like material which ruptures upon impact and proclaims the user to be a virgin. It costs 15$. Though, it is not yet popular in societies, where pramarital sex is banned.

Happy birthday to me!

May 12, 2010

I am 25! A quater of a century has already passed. How many “quarters” the future is holding for me? I hope many, and they all will be full of happiness and joy, and of course thousands and thousands of interesting blogsposts 😀

Happy Victory Day!

May 9, 2010

I am a grandson of a hero, who fought for freedom of his country during WWII! And I am proud of it! Long live Victory Day – May 9!

PS. I remember how my grandfather used to pin all his medals to his suit and take us, his grandchildren, with him to watch the May 9 parades. I remember how he used to tell us his war stories full of courage and bravery of those, who defended their family, home, and country. I remember…