Student reporting live from Greek riots

May 25, 2010

Ben O'Halloran interviews a Greek citizen at the riots in Thessaloniki

Ben O'Halloran interviews Sotitirs Zarianopoulous, General Secretary of The Trades Unions of Thessaloniki. Photo: Elise Dalley.

A Murdoch University journalism student has left the classroom far behind and is covering the Greek riots right from the frontline in Greece.

Ben O’Halloran is in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city, for a semester as part of the Global Environmental Journalism Initiative. He is producing articles for the online news site Murdoch Independent.

He has found himself at the centre of the riots and demonstrations by so-called anarchists against tough new measures designed to tackle the country’s debt crisis – including a major incident at Thessaloniki University, where he is based.

“I arrived for class one morning to find the anarchists out the front of the building playing loud music and speaking Greek over a PA system,” he said.

“The anarchists were not letting anyone in to the building but as I look the part, I was mistaken as one of their own and I slipped in without any trouble.

“As I walked the empty halls wondering what was going on I noticed that the classrooms were trashed and quickly realised that something sinister was going on.

“I went into journalist mode and tried to get interviews but was denied as the anarchists refused to be interviewed or photographed.”

On other occasions Ben has managed to capture photographs of running police battles and burning bins and prepare stories on the Greek riots for use on Murdoch Independent.

Carmelo Amalfi, a journalism lecturer at Murdoch, said Murdoch Independent provided an alternative voice to mainstream news writing and reporting, adhering to the highest standards of ethical and responsible journalism.

“Our goal is to produce and provide readers with high quality news stories characterised by independent research and the pursuit of excellence,” he said.

The Global Environmental Journalism Initiative which allowed Ben to study overseas is supported by the European Union and eight universities, five in Europe and four in Australia.

The three-year initiative is funded by a $510,000 grant from the European Union, Australian Cooperation in Higher Education and Department of Education and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in Canberra.

Presently, two Murdoch students are studying environmental journalism at Helsinki University in Finland and two are at Thessaloniki University in Greece as part of the GEJI program.

Ben also reported from the climate change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.

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