Juliana Ruhfus: Investigative film maker of Al Jazeera | CityEye Blog

The world needs women of vision. Women whose mission is not just narrow nationalism, but to the benefit of people everywhere.Juliana Ruhfus

Juliana Ruhfus describes herself as a television journalist and broadcaster who specialises in investigations and current affairs. Currently she is working on an interactive game for trainee journalists.


Despite being born in Germany, Juliana sees herself differently when referring to her heritage.

“I would absolutely 100% describe myself as a Londoner, which means no nationality.  By now I’ve spent as much time in England as Germany and at times I’ve lived in Africa.  The brilliant thing about London is that you can be all of that, because in London it all comes together.  When I travel, I struggle when people ask where are you from?  I don’t really feel I can say Germany, I haven’t lived there for 25 years, and yet I’m definitely not a Brit.”

Path into journalism

“I didn’t write little books at the age of 7.  I didn’t write journalistic articles, I didn’t do any of that. My village is a tiny little speck on a map.  If you come from such a place you don’t allow yourself to dream to be a foreign correspondent.  It seemed ridiculous to sit in a village like that and dream that you’ll travel the world, and live in a cosmopolitan city and do all these “ cool things”.

So don’t be intimated by thinking you’re not that good, not in that league. My world opened up when was 14 or 15, I was watching Fame the movie, and I was stuck in this little village, the only one doing A levels and there was bullying. When I saw this artists’ school in New York, all I wanted to do was get out. I just felt I wanted to be somewhere like that. Then I ended up on the London club scene a couple of years later.”

Advantages of being a woman

“One the biggest advantage of being a woman is that people underestimate you. Please be my guest. Men just don’t take you very seriously. It can really give you access. As a western woman you are quite often seen as a weird in-between sexless kind of thing. Men don’t really want to touch you. During an interview, they look like they’re sending a text, but really they’re recording you on their cameras. It happened a lot on that shoot in Libya.”

Role Models

Lyse Doucet is absolutely formidable in her skill as a journalist, the places that she goes and the dignity she bestows upon any one that she interviews.  She does do dangerous stuff, but whether she’s in the studio as host, or out on locations, she’s just such a class A journalist.

Kevin Sims is a very well known British documentary director, who wanted a producer for the Tsunami documentary. Just being on the shoot, it felt as if I was in an apprenticeship.  He was the most amazing director I’ve ever worked with; just collaborating with him on the project was really formative and great.”

Access or compromise

“You are always access led. It’s getting into a certain place that will make your film good. I don’t think that the access compromises my journalism, because I have an edit where I get to rethink the situation, where I can add things in the script. I get to balance the situation. That’s a style in which I like filming.

“While we were in Somalia, there was a massive rift between the Prime Minister and the President, but no one was going to talk to us about it because it was so political. But then we were just rolling at the airport as the President was in a meeting with an American delegation. The Prime Minster didn’t know that, and he barged into the VIP lounge. That was a really good way to show that there is a rift, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. If you roll a lot, you hoover up things. That’s my favorite filming. Sometimes you get gold or you can get nothing.”

Sex trafficking in Nigeria

“One of my films which has done incredibly well was the two part investigation into the trafficking of Nigerian women into the Italian sex trade. One film was shot in Italy with women who’ve been trafficked. We also had really good access to the Italian police.”

The Juju oath

“Back in Nigeria we wanted to investigate the problem at source. The girls have to take the Juju oath before they are trafficked. (They think they’re being offered a good job in Europe before they take the oath) Then they believe that if they run away, the oath will kill them. Which means that when they’re in Europe it’s almost impossible to get them off the streets. They believe if they don’t pay the money back, they will die. A Nigerian colleague of mine went undercover as a trafficker and got access to the Juju priest.”

Global corporations, Global crime.

“The way I look at the world is less countries and continents, than corporations. It’s actually quite interesting at the moment. We’re potentially entering an era, where the borders of nation states are becoming less relevant because of corporate interest. Trade and trade agreements, no longer look at borders, or boundaries in the way they have.

The one thing I have learnt, if there is anything to make money off they will do it.

They will sell anything, they will sell babies, and they will steal your organs.”

Harvesting of organs the new commodity.

“We’re trying to do the story of the organ transplant doctor in Turkey, who had a high degree of notoriety, because he himself said he had done over 2000 transplants. It is interesting to see how these organisations just move around jurisdictions.  The moment legislation gets tightened they just move on.

“Journalists really need to globalize.  Crime globalized a long time ago, why shouldn’t we?”

©2016 ionthecity.com

About the author

City Eye became interested in Overlooked and Overshadowed women, both in contemporary times and through out history. The former would include the women passed over for the Nobel in favour of their male colleagues. The later would be the wives of famous men, such as Mrs. Mandela. Her study of women written out of history, led her to interviews with interesting and inspirational women, (and some men). Extracts will be published in the articles. In no way is this men versus women, as to who is better. Simply that an overly macho, military, testosterone fueled environment, mainly men, needs the balancing attributes, often, though not exclusively, assigned to women: caring, conciliation, communication. Find out more: City Eye Blog ©christina ionthecity.wordpress.com

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