The Bureau for International Reporting

Winter Newsletter

Thanks to all for your interest in our work and support of our efforts. Three continents visited and several important human rights stories explored in 2014 – we couldn’t do it without you!

Return to Indonesia

The beginning of the Bureau for International Reporting can be traced back to 2002, when we traveled as independent video journalists to Aceh, Indonesia, to cover that region’s civil war. More than a decade later, and as the BIR, we returned to Aceh to see how the province has recovered from both that war and the devastating 2004 earthquake and tsunami. The change has been fascinating and profound, and we were proud to bring two otherwise completely untold stories about Aceh to our American viewing audience: on the impressive rehabilitation and recovery a decade after the tsunami; and on the troubling implementation of Sharia law in the province – in some ways an additional consequence of disaster and war.

We also hit the campaign trail with presidential candidate Joko Widodo, AKA Jokowi. The 2014 Indonesian election was a pivotal one and demonstrated the country’s progress from a dictatorship that ended only in 1998. Despite a fiercely contested election result, the democratic process in Indonesia worked; our three-story Indonesia series provided an important look at the world’s largest Muslim country and one of America’s allies in Southeast Asia.

GlobalBeat at NYU

This year we debuted an educational partnership with New York University, called GlobalBeat. Six graduate journalism students traveled with us to Senegal, joining the field production of our main PBS NewsHour story while undertaking reporting projects of their own. A lovely video story on Senegal’s promising gender parity laws, that was shot, edited and written by our students, ran on the home page of PBS NewsHour. Another piece, for Global Post, combined written and video elements to provide a personal look at female musicians challenging traditional beliefs through their art. We have just finished selecting a group of seven new students for our 2015 field trip, likely to Morocco. If you are interested in supporting this initiative, please be in touch about ways to give, or visit our website’s donation page.

Public Outreach

A highlight activity for us remains our dissemination into public venues like universities, foreign policy associations and think tanks. Be in touch if you’re interested in having us in for a presentation!

Some of our hosts in 2014 included:
-George Washington University: for a “Fault Lines of Faith” multi-story screening and discussion.
-Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies: For a screening of our Myanmar reporting and panel discussion with experts David Steinberg and Christina Fink.
-Traverse City, Michigan’s International Affairs Forum: For a “Fault Lines of Faith” multi-story screening with the club’s 400+ members.
-Boston University’s Pardee School of International Studies: For a screening of our Indonesia reporting and panel discussion with experts Jeremy Menchik and Strom Thacker.
-Columbia University’s Weatherhead Institute: Screening and discussion of our Myanmar reporting.

Visit Our Archives

This year’s reporting is just the latest in eight years of independent video journalism by the BIR. Visit our website to see past years’ work, including from Myanmar, Liberia, Bosnia, Georgia, India, Northern Ireland… the list goes on, now more than 20 countries visited!

Ukraine's Church Split

We're just back from Ukraine and now editing our next piece. Here's a preview:

It’s been a year of upheaval for that country — the massive protests, the toppling of a president, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and now a war in Ukraine’s east against pro-Russian separatists — and these events are having an unexpected impact on the religious practices of some Ukrainians. The country’s dominant Ukrainian Orthodox Church, referred to as the Moscow Patriarchate, is affiliated with Russia’s own politically influential Orthodox Church; but now, more than 30 Ukrainian villages have thrown out their Russia-affiliated priests and are transitioning to the smaller, unrecognized, but overtly pro-Ukrainian Kyiv Patriarchate church. These church turnovers are sometimes violent and are leaving villages divided. A fascinating look at how politics influences belief in times of war and turmoil. Keep your eye out for our broadcast notice. We hope you’ll watch!

Forced Child Begging

One of our toughest assignments ever looked at the epidemic of forced child begging within the informal network of Koranic schools in Senegal. Parents will send their children hundreds of miles away to study with teachers they believe will benefit their children. But all too often, especially in urban areas, the children are instead forced to beg on the streets for hours a day, collecting alms to pay for their schooling, room and board, or for small morsels of food to sustain them. The work is dangerous and dirty, and the education so prized by the parents falls by the wayside as the students – sometimes as young as five or six years old – are forced into something akin to slavery for their Koranic masters.

Fortunately, a few progressive voices within the country’s Muslim leadership are now speaking up, and with the help of local NGOs and even some allies in the government, they are combating the problem through social outreach to communities and through capacity building of the educational system itself. Our story was a vivid depiction of the terrible conditions these children face but also of the hope that an improvement to their condition is finally underway.

Support Our Work

We rely on "viewers like you" for your unrestricted donations, to keep us flexible to respond to breaking news and ethically free of commercial support. All donations are tax deductible. Please consider making a contribution to support our 2015 productions.

Thanks to Our Funders

A hearty thank you to all of the individuals who have supported our work, especially many of you who have given year after year. Our 8th year of full-time production wouldn’t be underway without you!

The Henry Luce Foundation remains our principal current foundation funder, with its generous support of our multi-year series, “Fault Lines of Faith”. The Ford Foundation’s long-time support has been the base of our stability and ability to respond to important, under-told stories around the world. This year we welcome and thank the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund and the Marc Haas Foundation, for their support of GlobalBeat.
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