Alan Dein connects with seven individuals whose lives have shifted under the coronavirus pandemic as they nervously anticipate what will come next in an uncertain future. In Tehran, Golnar, an Iranian who describes herself as ‘constant traveller’ is inside her apartment – all future trips postponed. Across the town is the hostel she set up with a friend. Forced to close in the city’s lockdown it is now serving a crucial role. In Dhaka, as the pandemic takes hold, entrepreneur Fahad worries for the successful delivery business he has spent years building up and the future for his parents. In Greece, Ibrahim is homeless, sheltering in an abandoned building. His friend Mikki is self-isolating and cannot help him.
The man who died for trees
Romania's forests are the Amazon of Europe - with large wilderness areas under constant pressure from loggers. For years, corrupt authorities turned a blind eye to illegal felling. But now a series of killings in the woods has intensified demands across the continent to end the destruction. Six rangers - who defend forests from illegal cutting – have been killed in as many years. Two died in the space of just a few weeks late last year. The latest victim, Liviu Pop, father of three young girls, was shot as he confronted men he thought were stealing timber. But the men weren’t arrested. They say the ranger shot himself. And in the remote region of Maramures, where many people are involved in logging, that version is widely believed. Locals are afraid to talk about what happened. Is the lucrative logging business protected by powerful interests who turn a blind eye to murder? And are rangers sometimes complicit in the rape of the forest? For Assignment, Tim Whewell tries to find out exactly how a young man employed to protect nature met his death. And he asks how Romania can save its wilderness when more than half the trees cut down are felled illegally?
Reporter: Tim Whewell
Editor: Bridget Harney
(Image: Forest guards stand next to wooden crosses bearing the names of their killed colleagues, including Liviu Pop. Credit: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images)
Miami: The sounds of the city
Peter White, who was born without sight, takes a tour of Miami, navigating primarily with his ears. Peter joins a new blind friend, George, who takes him on a relaxed stroll around a well-heeled area on a sunny afternoon. Peter talks to Carlos, a homeless man trudging the streets each day looking for work. And, on the outskirts of Miami, Peter meets his first alligator.
Ethiopia and Eritrea: Rebirth at the border
In September 2018, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea was opened for the first time in 20 years. Physical travel between the two countries and even telephone communication had been next to impossible, separating families and devastating businesses in borderland towns such as Zalambessa in Ethiopia. The communities on either side have had the opportunity to reconnect, rebuild and move on with their lives. The town is undergoing a transformation. Now, family events and religious ceremonies are celebrated with renewed joy as relatives come together to mark life’s milestones. In this programme, we immerse ourselves in the baptism of a new baby boy, born to first-time parents, and find out if their Eritrean relatives are able to cross the border to join the celebrations as they hope. But there’s a twist. While informal cross border movement continues on foot, the official border checkpoint in the town is closed again for trade and vehicles due to political uncertainty. There’s a construction boom in the region because of the optimism that once prevailed, but for many, their hope has been replaced by despair as business is stagnating once again. This is a programme about how lives are changing in all kinds of ways, and about the hope people hold on to for a better future. We share in both joy and frustration; a conflicted situation that remains to be resolved.
North Korea's celebrity defectors
According to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, there are more than 30,000 North Korean defectors living in the South. The lack of access to North Korea makes defectors one of the few windows to what life is like in the secretive regime. As a result, the defectors and their stories have become a hugely valuable commodity in South Korea’s popular culture and media.
There are a number of popular reality TV programmes starring North Korean defectors. Hyun-joo Yu is one of the most established stars on Now on My Way to Meet You, a popular and long running variety programme. The show features emotional North Korean defectors sharing their stories and performing to dramatic music. At the same time, the South Korean celebrity guests provide commentary and sometimes jokes.
Meanwhile, on the Internet, dozens of North Korean defectors have gained popularity through live streaming, telling stories about their lives in the North on YouTube and Instagram. These defector-celebrities, like 21-year-old Nara Kang, are mostly young, attractive women. Representing a younger generation of defectors, Nara Kang is tapping into an audience with no living memory of the North.
Capitalising on their status as defectors to gain fame, these celebrities cannot move on from being defined by their past. They strive to fit into South Korean society, while emphasising their otherness to South Korean audiences.