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Digital Sketches

digital citizen media, ict with a focus on Central Asia and the Middle East.

Category Archives: citizen media

My first two days in Athens felt surreal. Here we are, staying in a posh hotel, attending a congress on media (Global Forum for Media Development) with 450 media people. Meanwhile a few blocks away thousands of Greeks were demonstrating and fighting with the police.


Few people wanted to involve, one of them was Sameer, hub manager at He went out to have a look at the riots in the old city and shoot some video. Afterwards he showed me the material and his Flip camera; magnificent in its simplicity, quality and price.

kerstboom2I went for a walk to the centre on my third day in Athens (Wednesday 10 Dec). First I went to the Parliament building.  At 12.30 hr. the demonstration was forced to spread. For this the police mainly used tear gas.  Nasty stuff.  The demonstrators looked like average citizens (students but also older people, white collars ect). They could well  belong to the ‘Generation 700’; well educated people in their twenties and thirties with a monthly income of about 700 euro’s. That might be enough ten years ago but this is definitely not the case any more.

The scene I still remember clearly – without taking a picture – was the young boy crying on the pavement, leaning against a window.  Some people were helping him, to get the tear gas out of his face by blowing cigarette smoke in his eyes. The ten year old happened to be on the wrong place when the police starting firing the tear gas.

I continued walking to the Athens Polytech that was taken over by students and other youngsters. It is located about 500 metres from the Parliament.  The Polytech has a history regarding uprising. Wednesday the situation at the University looked grim; many black clothes and gas masks, some hollow looking junkies at the entrance  and big speakers blasting out loud punk rock music. The surrounding streets were a complete mess; everything that was inflammable – cars, trees and houses – was burned.alphabank


What always surprises me in this kind of situations;  the way ordinary life continues.  Also in Athens men continued doing their shopping, women kept selling cookies even when the police turned up behind their back, lots of people went for a walk in the old city centre during their lunch break. And of course, the taxi driver did not want to drive me back to the hotel (2 km) for less than 20 euro. No way buddy.



The Greek do not trust their government; corruption is said to be wide spread and the investments in the Greek society are insufficient; in health, in welfare and especially on education.  Of course, the concept of democracy is never finished and needs constant maintenance. Because times, yes they are changing. But it is ironic to see the country that invented democracy in such a troubled state.

Independent Greek paper Kathimerini; English edition

The Economist; Rioters without Frontiers

BBC on Greece; including peaceful protests

My favourites for the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) are this year:

Burma VJ; winner of the Joris Ivens Award and the ‘Movies That Matter’ Human Rights Award and also my number one.

Afghan Star; how about the tv programme Idols in Afghanistan? A film  about national roadshow in search of Afghanistan next big star.

When Carmen meets Borat; Carmen is 17 years old and lives in Glod; a small gypsy village somewhere in the Romanian mountains. She works daily in the shop and pub of her father. But Carmen dreams of a future somewhere else; somewhere she can find her ideal husband and lead a fantastic and rich life. She watches Spanish soap operas on TV and learns Spanish. When a man named Borat and his film crew appear; the villagers cooperate on what they believe will be a documentary.

Rough Aunties; “Fearless, feisty and resolute, the ‘Rough Aunties’ are a remarkable group of women unwavering in their stand to protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa.”

The Queen and I;  ‘Whereas during the Iranian Revolution in the late seventies the leftist documentary-maker Nahid Persson helped depose the shah the Iranian king. In reaction to these reprimands, Nahid decides to make a film about the last Iranian queen Farah, who lives abroad, like herself. This leads to a fascinating encounter of two women with clashing political visions, who develop an improbable friendship in the two years of their association’

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Technology knows no borders. Effects are not only more popular in the movie, but also our environment is a platform for effects. Soon we shall see the chair where we can sit at home moving together with the image.
A lot will change in the film industry.  The conference of the Stifo@Sandberg on Friday 31 October, shall give an overview of developments, new trends and ideas and will start a debate with speakers and the audience on these.

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A general frustration in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are the fast increasing prices for food and oil. But also water – and therefore electricity – is becoming a huge problem in the region. During July and August Kazakh farmers had to slaughter parts of their cattle, as continuously dry weather poses serious threat of losing the entire livestock. The winter of 2008 promises to be the hardest in decades as Kyrgyzstan is getting prepared to massive energy cuts in autumn and cold winter. Low river and reservoir levels and the need to save energy forced the government to introduce energy cuts in August and prohibit using electricity for heating.

Read more:

Water could lead to fire, Radio Free Europe

No more Kyrgyz electricity to Ferghana Valley, NewEurasia

Kyrgyzstan denies using regional water resources,

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After his return froma three-week long trip through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan Ben Paarmann – co founder and editor of the blogging network NewEurasia – found the scariest part the road between Bishkek and Balykchy ashore the Issyk Kul. (…) : ‘The recipe seems simple: Too many cars, police too sparse on the ground or too corrupt to enforce speed limits, and of course absolutely reckless driving.’ Unfortunately he is so right, I experienced during my last visit in July.

Read more

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Although I did not visit Osh this year I can report a short follow up to the story on Solomon’s throne, published July 2007.

Last year the mayor of Osh planned to build a lift on Solomon’s Rock. A lift could bring more people to the top in a more comfortable way. There were several protests against the plan: it is said Central Asian muslims consider visiting this rock three times, equal to the hadj to Mecca. Also there was a lively rumour the rock was on the Unesco World Heritage list. It was of course pretty easy to find it was NOT on this list. Altogether I was convinced the last word had not been said about this.

Last week, during my dutytrip for Hivos, I met reporters from the youth portal Kloop. After some fact checking, amongst others anaylzing Unesco’s criteria, they found the rock was on the Unesco nomination list. Definitely the mayor will have to redefine his plans because a lift will be out of the question.

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On You Tube you can find several short scenes for example of the opening of Barcamp Bishkek, photo’s and reports of bloggers.

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