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Secondment at the Al Jazeera Media Institute

by Lena Richter and Rayane Al-Rammal

This last month (mid- February, mid-March 2022) a few ESRs had the chance to do a secondment at the Al Jazeera Media Institute (AJMI) in Doha, Qatar, in the framework of our ITN-MIDA doctoral program. AJMI's goal was to give us - aspiring researchers - an insight into the journalistic world, documentary filmmaking, and podcasting. And, what a valuable experience it was!

The first week, Aleeha, Rayane and I (Lena) spent some time at the Al Jazeera Journalism Review Department. Among other things, Aleeha published an article titled: "Examining the imagery of women during wartime". SImultaneously, Muzzafer and Mohamed joined the department of the Al Jazeera Arabic E-Learning platform. As one day of our stay coincided with International Women's Day, the E-learning department published a video on the occasion (featuring my attempt to speak Arabic).

In the second week, we followed a training about documentary filmmaking by film director Thorsten Schütte. What was special about this training is that it initiated vivid and stimulating debates among us on ethical concerns in documentary films.

Furthermore, at the end of this short yet dense training, we were able to produce our own short movies with the help of Al Jazeera's (very patient) editing team. Each movie had a bit of its producer's character and energy, so you could imagine how different each one of our films turned out! The topics ranged from the busy kitchen of a Yemeni restaurant, the power of introspective poetry, the last pearl diver of Qatar, the surrealism of Doha's architecture, the street cats & camels, to memories of the 2nd world war.

In the third week, we got insights into podcasting and recorded, edited, and published our own short podcasts with the support and knowledge of our trainer Abdelkarim Aouir. Check the podcast Aleeha, Rayane and I had produced on feminism in academia. It was great to see how quickly we were able to create an output, compared to the lengthy production process of academia.

During the weekends, we often went out to grasp a bit of Doha's spirit. We paid a visit to the National Museum of Qatar to fathom this young nation state's official narrative about itself, namely its trials to reconcile the omnipresent tension between turath ("heritage") and modernity.

We also stopped many times to eat at Souq Waqif, which has been built around an old Souq. Inspired by this charming market we had many discussions about what it means to emulate the old while aspiring for a sense of newness.

Last but not least, we have visited different beaches, such as Purple Island, a serene island one-hour drive from Doha that is abundant in mangroves and lush greenery. There, we swam, laughed, watched the sunset, and gathered around a bonfire while reciting poetry. Abducted by the affect (not effect) of nature, our minds often buzzing with all sorts of questions provoked by our stay in Qatar were for once silenced.

Our stay would not have been the same without Muhammad Alkhamaiseh who has been genuinely a generous host and without Montaser Marai who always greeted us with a smile. As well as, the many other friendly people who, with little gestures of kindness brightened up our days: the Uber drivers who accompanied us during our commutations and told us stories about their lives in Qatar, the baristas at the coffee corner of AJMI- and the cleaning staff both at our accommodation and in AJMI. They were all extremely kind and indispensable.

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