By Butler Cain | May 30th, 2010
This entry is another in a series of interviews from across the world with journalists and those who are interested in journalism. Florian Witulski has been using digital media to cover the recent political upheaval in Thailand. I received his responses several days ago, and below is an edited version of our e-mail interview.
Butler: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, why are you currently in Thailand, and what’s your background in journalism?
Florian: My name is Florian Witulski. I am a freelance Journalist and Journalism student in Bangkok, Thailand. I moved to Bangkok 2.5 years ago to study, travel and get work experience in an international climate of a growing capital in the heart of Southeast Asia. Since I was very young, I always had the passion to report and present news, experience, and views on various topics. I love to amaze people, show them different view points and contribute to a better understanding between cultures. My greatest passion is traveling. I have been to nearly fifty countries all over the world now and still can’t get enough of new cultural, historical and also political views on life.
Butler: I’ve been following your coverage of the recent upheavals in Thailand through Twitter and your blog. How are you tailoring your coverage to fit a digital platform? What news gathering tools are you using?
Florian: Media, especially Internet-based communications, are a great way to deliver information. Immediate uploads of pictures, videos and news makes Twitter and blogs the best gateway for detailed and up-to-date coverage on any topic! You can reach people all over the world in just a few clicks and give them the feeling that they are actually at the scene of actions while sitting in front of the screen. I am taking pictures and videos during the protests in Bangkok and uploading them to my blog and Twitter account. Mobile Internet connections make it possible to publish immediately to news agencies and spread information and footage right after something is happening. After publishing on my blog, I often had problems with the capacity because my server was not used to thousands of people in a short period of time, but I got great feedback and could answer questions for people from all over the world.
Butler: Describe a harrowing moment for you as a journalist covering this dangerous situation. Weren’t you shot in the arm?
Florian: During the coverage of the violence in the last weeks, I experienced several situations which have been very dangerous. I am very aware of being in an area of violence but on the 10th of April I had very bad luck and got shot by the police in my right arm. I don’t regret this situation but I am looking forward to do a hostile environment training soon. After that incident I was much more careful and planned steps ahead. I have seen many dead people and the most terrifying moment was on the 16th of May where a protester got shot in his knee right in front of me. While I was behind a stable wall he was running over the street and caught a bullet. He was lying on the floor and I couldn’t help him because I was scared. With the help of some soldiers and medics we could move him out of the dangerous zone a bit later, and he is fine now. What is really important to say is that I always wear a Kevlar helmet, jacket and a clear sign that I am not part of the conflict. A lot of curious freelancers and tourists have been injured by just running through the hot spots without protection or a press patch. All in all I would never risk my life for taking a good picture or video but some journalists think differently.
Butler: Please describe the current situation in Thailand and why you believe it is important to cover what is happening there.
Florian: The violence calmed down in the last days and there is still a curfew this week to clean up rally sites and taking a slow turn back to a normal life in Bangkok. Many citizens are happy, most tourists are back and also a lot of foreign journalists are moving out of the country, but the political conflict is far away from a happy ending. Actually the crackdown on the protesters was no political solution. Businesses can go on, people can work again but the political struggle is still the same. It is very important to report about this crisis because Thai Media have limited freedom of speech and most things just don’t reach an international platform. For me personally it is very important to stay as objective as possible. During the last weeks I saw a lot of very unbalanced reports by major news networks which was very sad. There is definitely no civil war in Thailand, but on the other hand, it is also not the same country as it used to be. It is hard to stay focused in a complex political situation like this. It is not just red vs. yellow. There are much more factors like education, corruption and power which play a leading role in this crisis.