When it comes to success stories of the Lebanese diaspora, Berlin-based news host and video journalist Jaafar Abdul Karim fits the bill perfectly.
Arriving in Dresden, Germany, in 2002 to study media computer science, Jaafar Abdul Karim never thought he would stay in Europe longer than his degree.
Instead he has surprised even himself, having spent the past three years rising through the ranks at Deutche Welle, Germany’s leading international broadcasting service. He began as an intern, then earned himself a video journalist position separating his time between Berlin and Cairo.
He now presents his own talk show, “Shabab Talk,” where he invites a variety of young Arab and European guests to discuss current, socio-political affairs.
The show is a colossal hit, reaching a weekly audience of 4 million people in Egypt alone, and won the “Best Talk Show” award at the ASBU Festival in Tunisia.
Of all his successes, Abdul Karim is as humble about these as he is about his own national and cultural identity. He has great pride in his parents and his Lebanese origins, but his views on nationality are refreshingly unique. He believes that identity is based not on heritage, but rather a diverse mix of cultural immersion and experience. Born in Monrovia, Liberia, he spent his childhood there before moving to Switzerland and then on to Beirut for his education at a German school, before going on to study as an undergraduate in Germany. In 2015 he earned a master’s degree in Leadership and Communication at Quadriga University in Berlin.
He values his multinational experiences greatly as a chief reason for his successful career so far. “An international upbringing has taught me the importance of accepting every kind of person and I feel it has taught me valuable lessons in tolerance to different beliefs, personalities and topics”
Abdul Karim is a passionate journalist and his ability to accommodate very different identities and beliefs seems to be the reason “Shabab Talk” is so successful. The purpose of the show, he says, is to create an environment in which direct and open dialogue flows freely between the sharpest young minds of Europe and the Arab world. It is the perfect platform for young activists and politically minded individuals to have the voice that they wouldn’t usually receive in mainstream media.
Abdul Karim is the perfect host, guiding conversation just enough so that all sides of the discussion are given ample air time. “To me, people and their opinions and individualism is important, regardless of their origin” he says. He is certainly not afraid to tackle the biggest and often most controversial topics of the day, such as journalistic freedom of speech, terrorism, racism and many more.
Often the debates between guests on “Shabab Talk” are followed closely on social media, where fans and followers add their own voices and perspectives to the discussion.
These are some of Abdul Karim’s proudest moments, and he is staunch advocate of journalism being most effective across multimedia platforms.
In an age where anyone can be a journalist so long as they have a phone and an opinion, he encourages everyone to play a part. Particularly in the wake of Arab Spring, young people suddenly have the power to express themselves in large numbers. “Eighteenyear- olds tweeting their insights from Egypt or Libya is more important than anything happening inside a news studio,” he says. This isn’t just a hollow statement, as Abdul Karim embodies it himself, never afraid to embed himself in his stories on the ground and meet his subjects up close. He has spent time as front line reporter covering the news from Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and the Syria-Turkey border.
While he is the first to admit that life in the fast lane can be intense. Abdul Karim still finds some time for himself. He unwinds by swimming and going to musicals, and naturally Lebanon holds an important place in his heart. “I feel a special connection to Beirut and I have a strongly affinity with its international, melting pot culture. There are political challenges every minute of the day but the young Beirutis are always among the most optimistic and forward thinking.” Abdul Karim is the flagship of this generation and his successes are an inspiration for anyone looking to carve out a path in the media world.