Vlucht naar Syrië full documentary

Here’s the radio documentary I did about the Dutch humanitarian effort called “Help Syria Through the Winter” for NTR radio. For the non-Dutch speaker: In December 2013 I boarded a cargo plane full of supplies and flew from Rotterdam to Damascus, the capital of war-torn Syria. There, I covered the distribution of the supplies to internally displaced persons.

Barro Blanco documentary nominated for Prix Europa

The radio documentary about the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam in Panama that I produced for NTR radio in Holland has been nominated for the Prix Europa, at the European broadcast festival that will be held in Berlin in October.

In the piece I investigated, together with colleague Gilles Frenken, the greenwashing of this environmentally and socially disastrous project in which Dutch semi-government bank FMO is heavily invested. We discovered that local indigenous people had never been consulted and face forced displacement, there are serious environmental consequences left out of a doctored impact study and the Dutch bankers didn’t seem to fully understand what they were investing in.

The documentary led to questions in the Dutch parliament soon after it was aired.

“Barro Blanco” has been nominated in the category, “Best European Radio Investigation of the Year 2013”.

Haven’t heard it yet? You can listen to the documentary here.

Barro Blanco

Tabasara river

A Dutch semi-government institution, the Dutch Development Bank FMO, invests in a hydroelectric dam in Panama, called Barro Blanco. Green energy, and Holland can offset some CO2 emissions. Everybody happy, then?

Well, not quite. The dam is being built just outside the indigenous reservation of the Ngobe people, and part of their land, with several villages, will be flooded. Protests have already caused several deaths and many wounded. Environmentalists claim that the energy isn’t green at all.

Together with colleague Gilles Frenken, I set off to investigate. We found angry indigenous people, an energy corporation that constantly lies, and a Dutch bank that insists on looking the other way when human rights are violated.

Listen to the radio documentary on the HollandDoc website, here.

The documentary led to questions in parliament in the Netherlands as well.

Drugs Canal

Okke Ornstein in the Darien gap

The police raids a neighborhood near the Panama City airport. Armed to the teeth and dressed in bullet proof vests, they storm from one dilapidated apartment building to the other. Their goal: Finding members of street gangs and drugs. Rivalry between the various gangs and foreign traffickers is the main reason for an ever increasing murder rate in Panama.

Where do these drugs come from? Most of it comes from Colombia, through the impenetrable border area known as the Darien gap. Panamanian traffickers meet in the jungle with Colombian FARC guerrillas or bandoleros and bring the merchandise to the capital, from where it is then shipped further north.

The Panamanian border police, SENAFRONT, is trying to stem the flow of drugs coming through the Darien, without much success. Caught in the middle is the indigenous population, the Embera, and small farmers. SENAFRONT seals off entire villages from the outside world, even preventing the residents from working on their crops. But at the same time, the armed groups demand that the villagers supply them with food.

I made a radio documentary for a Dutch broadcaster about the trafficking, interviewed drug runners, got in trouble with SENAFRONT and talked with the real victims; the local residents. Listen to the documentary on the NTR website.