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On Spec Podcast

On Spec Podcast

By On Spec Podcast
A long form documentary podcast produced by independent journalists from the field, bringing stories from across the globe.

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Collaboration / Mohammad, undocumented in Amsterdam (with The Europeans)
The Europeans podcast brings you a look at life as an undocumented migrant in Amsterdam.  Co-produced by Katz Laslo and Mohammad Bah, the story is also narrated by Mohammad, who is originally from Guinea, about his life as an undocumented migrant in Amsterdam. It’s tender, heart-warming, surprising, and just an all round great listen.
July 25, 2022
Keeping the Colorado Q&A
Host Nadene Ghouri talks with Alisa Reznick about her latest episode for On Spec.  For "Keeping the Colorado," Reznick traveled on the Colorado River in the southwestern US, and talked to people living in the area about what the river's drying up means for them.
July 12, 2022
Keeping the Colorado
The Colorado River runs through seven US states and crosses into Mexico, helping sustain 40 million people living along it’s banks and far beyond. It’s been dammed 15 times, part of an effort to capture its waters for the people living along its banks. But the Colorado is drying up, and communities along the river will soon face cuts in their allotted shares, part of a complex treaty between Mexico and the US on how to distribute the water. Alisa Reznick, a journalist from Arizona, travels along the river and speaks with the communities, business owners, and everyday people dependent on the flow.
July 03, 2022
Meeting My Surrogate
Guest Host Nadene Ghouri takes us with her as she visits the Ukrainian woman who was the surrogate mother for her child.  Nadene explains what the experience has taught her about the bond between mother and child, and what it means for women to control their own bodies. 
June 26, 2022
A Nation’s Two Sides Q&A
Host Nadene Ghouri talks with Oscar Durand, the producer of On Spec's latest episode, "A Nation’s Two Sides." Durand talks about what it was like growing up in Peru, and the kind of class divisions highlighted in the episode, which was reported by Finnish journalist Kukka Maria Ahokas.
June 18, 2022
A Nation’s Two Sides
Peru has long struggled with political, cultural, racial, and economic divides, a source of tension that propelled the leftist former schoolteacher Pedro Castillo to the Presidency last year. In the city of Lima, the complex social jigsaw puzzle manifests itself physically: the “Wall of Shame” is three meters high and ten kilometeres long, separating the affluent in La Molina from others in neighboring Villa Maria del Triunfo. Finnish journalist Kukka Maria Ahokas has little trouble crossing this and other barriers, and she introduces us to activist Carlos Hinostroza, who is trying to tear down the wall for all.
June 12, 2022
When a Frozen Conflict Wakes Up Q&A
Host Nadene Ghouri talks with French-Armenian journalist Astrig Agopian, about her recent reporting for On Spec's episode "When a Frozen Conflict Wakes Up."  The episode brought listeners to the Armenia-Azerbaijan frontier, and introduces us to people dealing with a decades-old conflict that turned into another real war in 2020.
June 05, 2022
Tribe and Prejudice Q&A
Host Nadene Ghouri talks with Angel Bwalya Kasabo and Lewis Yuyi about On Spec's latest episode, which introduces us to families in Zambia trying to move past the stereotypes surrounding their tribal identities in the country.
May 22, 2022
Tribe and Prejudice
Tribal identities continue to play a role in social and political rifts  in many parts of the world, even erupting into outright conflict. In the  southern African nation of Zambia, a younger generation now attempts to  bridge the gap between different tribes. But long-held stereotypes make  it difficult for Zambians to discard their tribal identity entirely.  Zambian journalist and radio host Angel Bwalya Kasabo introduces us to  two Zambian families who come from different tribes–the Tonga and  Bemba–that have intermarried. These Zambian families have crossed not  only tribal borders, but their own borders of prejudice. Their  experiences can bring understanding about how to break through tension  and misunderstanding between families in a polarized society.
May 07, 2022
When a Frozen Conflict Wakes Up
For several decades now, the region of Nagorno-Karabakh has been a source of tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan, occasionally resulting in a real war, like in 2020. But along the shores of lake Joghaz, there are villagers old enough to recall what it was like to live together when both countries were Soviet republics. Today the border is sealed, but villagers can sometimes still hear conversations from across the lake. French-Armenian journalist Astrig Agopian introduces us to villagers who, despite the conflict, still remember that today’s enemy is yesterday’s neighbor, and to people from both backgrounds across the globe who are trying to bridge a geopolitical divide before the next war.
April 23, 2022
Spy on the Mediterranean Q&A
Host Nadene Ghouri and journalist Bartholomäus von Laffert talk about On Spec's latest episode, which tells the story of how activists working to save the lives of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean have found themselves facing criminal charges for their work.
April 17, 2022
Spy on the Mediterranean
Europe is prosecuting human rights activists that help save lives in the Mediterranean Sea, where thousands of migrants and refugees have drowned as they attempt to evade some of the world’s most powerful naval forces and reach European shores in search of a better life. The charges, allegations of human trafficking that could land activists in prison for decades, have been helped along by a spy, a former private security guard who posed as a sympathetic worker on rescue boats and passed on information to Italian authorities and right-wing politicians. Journalist Bartholomäus von Laffert spent years with many of the people at the center of the case, and introduces us to the activists and spies whose allegations could end up making an already dangerous sea crossing even deadlier.
April 09, 2022
Surrogacy, War, and Survival in Ukraine
Guest Host Nadene Ghouri tells the story of how her search for a surrogate mother for her child brought her to Ukraine, and how she found herself repaying the ultimate kindness by helping one woman flee the war there.
March 27, 2022
Crossing borders, both real and Imagined
In Season Four, we bring you stories from six countries.  Next, we take a personal look at the Ukraine refugee crisis.
March 19, 2022
Fortress Europe is a House of Cards
The French town of Calais is at the heart of a massive security infrastructure program meant to keep refugees and migrants from crossing the English Channel into the United Kingdom. Over the past 20 years, French and British authorities have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on walls, fences, cameras, more police, and security agents to keep people away from the shores. In order to do so, private firms have benefited from multi-year contracts to build, maintain or operate in the city and specifically around the port and railway tunnel areas. Rights organizations and other NGOs say that the infrastructure only forces migrants and refugees to seek out more perilous routes to the UK. Journalists Margaux Benn and Judith Chetrit report from the ground and shed light on this corner of Fortress Europe.
March 05, 2022
Pandemic Treatments that Paralyze
In Africa, herbal treatments are used to heal viruses in the absence of  modern medicine, but disinformation about these treatments and how they  can cure COVID-19 is having a deadly impact. Government officials and  local healers out to make money sell these treatments with fake news.  Congolese journalist Patrice Chitera, who has used these treatments for  his ailments in the past, adds his own story as well as those impacted  by these herbal meds. Patrice questions who to hold accountable for the  loss of lives in a country where there’s little trust of those in power.
June 05, 2021
The Death of Hong Kong
Hong Kong protesters were on the streets for more than a year to fight for their freedom of expression after China announced laws to further curb their rights in 2019. Police violently attacked protestors, threw opposition politicians in jail and the country has been polarized as disinformation spreads. Journalist Lisa Jane Harding, based in Hong Kong for 19 years, reports through the eyes of a politician and a chef supporting opposing sides on how the protests split Hong Kong, and if the city can regain lost freedoms.
May 01, 2021
Combating Climate Change
Some of the world’s most active climate deniers reside in the United States. Arkansas suffers from flooding and is one of the conservative red states where many farmers, who have the most to benefit from green policies, are actually voting against their best interests because of disinformation. Arkansas native and journalist Alice Driver introduces an organic farmer, who’s a climate activist, to a state senator, a climate change skeptic who also happens to be her neighbor, to see if they can find common ground.
April 17, 2021
Collaboration / Objectivity in the Times of Fake News (with Suno India)
Suno India speaks with journalists Prachi Pinglay and Kunal Shankar, who produced On Spec's Season 3, Episode 4 - Love in Times of Hate.  They discuss what the impact of fake news has been on India, and what it was like reporting and putting together the episode for On Spec. 
April 11, 2021
Love in Times of Hate
The Modi government has an agenda to make India a Hindu nation, and they have tapped into old prejudices and disinformation to brainwash influential and ordinary people into hating minorities, particularly Muslims. Indian journalist Prachi Pinglay Plumber is a Hindu married to a Muslim, and she touches on her own experience of interfaith marriage, as she tells the tale of India’s demise from a secular democracy to a country that has used fake news to fuel riots. She unravels the Delhi riots in 2020 through the lens of a Muslim family living in a Hindu neighborhood, and a right wing Hindu activist. And she asks, how is love possible in the midst of broiling animosity?
April 03, 2021
Breaking Up a Family
Since the elections in Brazil that brought Jair Bolsonaro to power,  Brazilian journalists Giovana Fleck and Carol Grune have been hearing  politicians insult women, threaten them with rape, and try to take away  their rights as women. For Carol, the polarized politics of Brazil led  to a breakup with her father. Giovana helps Carol tell her story as the  father and daughter quarantine together in Porto Alegre. Carol and her  parents are on different sides of the feminist debate in Brazil, and  they hash out their their political differences, realizing the divisions  are really about their own identities.
March 20, 2021
Russia’s Rainbow Divide
Putin’s Russia is a homophobic country. The state media spouts anti-gay rhetoric and creates fake news, Parliament passes laws that curtail LGBTQ activism, and hate crimes are on the rise. But in bigger cities, there are also thriving gay scenes, and a new generation of Russian activists is seeking to change public opinion. British journalist Theo Merz, who’s gay, takes us to Moscow where he lives across these two Russias. He explores this rainbow divide and brings two people with radically different viewpoints face to face for a discussion about sexual identity.
March 06, 2021
The Last Bus to Europe
Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, but they are facing a brutal backlash from Turkish society. In February 2020, during the onset of the pandemic, the Turkish government misinformed refugees that they could leave Turkey and enter Greece. Turkish photojournalist Özge Sebzeci boarded a bus from Istanbul to Greece filled with migrants headed to Europe, and she tells the story of their journey. Then she weaves in the Turkish narrative by getting to know an anti migration politician and a pro-refugee activist to understand how they shaped their opinions.
February 20, 2021
Season Three: Disinformation Teaser
Get ready for Season Three: Disinformation!  On Spec takes a deep dive into the global abyss of fake news, bringing you the story of how the scourge of disinformation is effecting ordinary people in seven different countries.
February 18, 2021
Collaboration / Inside Iran's Holiest Shrine
Scott Gurian, an American journalist and the voice behind Far From Home podcast, transports us to Mashad, Iran, inside a pilgrimage site where he and his fellow travelers find themselves grappling with cultural and religious differences. Then Scott tells On Spec his reflections about the trip, and how he managed to avoid Iran’s government minders to record his story.
February 03, 2021
OnSpec/08 - My Phoenix
Phoenix is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., an example of urbanization shaped by generations of immigrants. An Arizona native, journalist Alisa Reznick gives a tour of the old and new Greater Phoenix through the eyes of her extended family, who came three generations ago from Mexico, and new migrants struggling to get asylum.
January 11, 2021
Collaboration / Foreign Correspondence
In this collaboration with Foreign Correspondence podcast, On Spec host  Fariba Nawa gives a raw, intimate interview to Jake Spring about her  two-decade career, family, and the struggles of straddling two cultures  as a journalist. You can listen to all episodes of the podcast Foreign  Correspondence, where you will hear deep dive interviews with a diverse  group of foreign reporters.
November 01, 2020
OnSpec/Pandemic • Through Children’s Eyes
What has quarantine been like for children during the pandemic? Are they finding their creative little selves and building stronger family ties? Or turning into online zombies and losing their social skills? Or are they becoming child laborers to help their families survive? It depends on the kids and the country. On Spec host Fariba Nawa takes you inside her home in Turkey with her daughters, and then to Malawi, where they get to know a teenage girl whose life changed drastically when her school closed because of the pandemic.
September 12, 2020
Collaboration / Feminism in the Age of COVID-19 (with Continuum Collective)
In this collaboration with the Continuum Collective, we are exploring the rise in gender-based violence during the pandemic and what can be done about it. On Spec's host Fariba Nawa joins Jillian Foster, the host of the Continuum Collective's Radicals & Revolutionaries Lab podcast, and Teri Yuan, the host of the Engendered podcast.
August 16, 2020
OnSpec/Pandemic • Surviving as a Woman
With  families in lockdown, and social services unavailable, experts say  domestic violence is increasing, and being ignored during the  coronavirus outbreak. Menel Raach talks to a woman in Iraq who is trying  to find a safe place to live amid the lockdowns there, and to lawyers  and experts about what is being called a "shadow pandemic" of domestic  violence.
August 08, 2020
OnSpec/Pandemic • Rediscovering Our Kitchens
You probably know someone who has discovered their inner chef in the last few months.  In New York, photographer Jackson Krule discovered he was a baker.  Unable to go out and photograph the Orthodox Jewish community he has been documenting, he started baking challah bread at home and posting photos online.  Now it's turned into a business that delivers all over the country.  Alisa Reznick brings you that tale, and her own story of learning her family's recipes during the pandemic in Arizona.
July 07, 2020
OnSpec/Pandemic • Mental Health and the Pandemic
How is being on lock down effecting our mental health, and how are mental health professionals trying to continue to provide help when they cannot meet someone in person? On Spec intern and journalist Kasper Dilmaghani talks to therapists and one woman who opens up about her depression.  Here is the story on how the pandemic is effecting our mental health, from Tunisia, Mexico, Poland, Hong Kong and the U.S.
June 02, 2020
OnSpec/Pandemic • Prisons and the Pandemic
What if you don't have control over your own self-isolation? More than two million people are in prisons in the US, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  Oscar Durand speaks with Efrén Paredes, Jr about the prison where he is incarcerated serving a life sentence for a robbery and murder committed when was 15 years old.  He maintains his innocence.  In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled life sentences without parole for minors were unconstitutional, and Efrén has been awaiting a re sentencing since then. Of the 1,400 incarcerated with him in Michigan's Lakeland Correctional Facility, more than 700 have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 12 have died.
May 01, 2020
OnSpec/Pandemic • Alone but not Lonely
Whether you live across the street, or across the Atlantic, for many of us social distancing now means you cannot meet in person. Your family, your friends, that person you wanted to date...everything is on hold.  But across the world we are finding new ways of bridging the distances.  Margaux Benn and Menel Raach bring you stories from Canada, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Tunisia, on how we are keeping from getting lonely, even when we are alone.
April 21, 2020
OnSpec/Pandemic • Face to Face with the Virus
What's it like to have COVID19 in Turkey?  Hilaneh Mahmoudi, a freelance photographer in Istanbul, spent weeks trying to not catch it, but one day the tell tale symptoms began.  This is her audio diary, told to host Fariba Nawa, of what it's like to have the virus, and the struggle to keep those living with you safe from it as well. See the accompanying photographs here.
April 13, 2020
On Spec/Pandemic - Faith and the Pandemic
You might think you're further away from the world, but in many ways the pandemic is bringing us together. We begin with the religious, those who turn to faith and collective prayer in times of hardship. But they are not supposed to gather anymore in mosques, churches or synagogues. The entire concept of communal support in faith has been upended. Many groups are still resisting and continue to gather. But slowly, the choice is no longer available. It’s your life or place of worship. Journalist Umar Farooq talks to three people in Spain, Kashmir and the U.S., and how religious communities are finding ways to support each other without being together.
March 31, 2020
OnSpec/07 - Treasure Hunters
Journalist Margaux Benn ventures to the remote province of Nimroz, Afghanistan and follows the tracks of ancient artefacts, from the desert straddling Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, to a shop in the capital Kabul. Some could be antiquities ending up on a shelf among fakes, then illegally taken to Dubai and sold at a high price.
March 15, 2020
OnSpec/06 - Rupi’s Journey
Oscar Durand brings you the story of a Bolivian street musician in Istanbul, who like the rest of us, wonders where the years have gone and what he will do with his life.  Oscar, a Peruvian and former engineer, found a common bond with Rupi on speaking Spanish and the meaning of life.  (Rupi's name has been changed per his request.)
February 02, 2020
OnSpec/05 - The ISIS Conundrum
As the world grapples with how to serve justice to thousands of foreign ISIS affiliates captured in Syria and Iraq, Australian journalist Tessa Fox travels to northeast Syria to meet the Australians accused of being  affiliated with the group. 
January 04, 2020
OnSpec/04 - The Badlands - Pakistan's Tribal Areas
Umar Farooq reports on how Pakistan’s tribal areas, once proud of their fierce independence, are ready to join Pakistan proper, and how youth there worked to end a century-old collective punishment law.  Locals where caught between US drones, the Taliban, and the Pakistani military.  This is the untold story of the war on terror, and what reforms in the tribal areas mean for peace in Afghanistan.
December 07, 2019
OnSpec/03 - Truffle Terror: The Iraqis Risking Their Lives in Pursuit of a Desert Delicacy
Pesha Magid travels to Anbar to bring you the story of how, and why, locals are risking kidnapping by ISIS to hunt for desert truffles. A  rare but beloved delicacy in Iraq, this was the best year for them since the 1990s. The biggest of the truffles grow far out in the  remotest regions of Anbar province — where at least a thousand ISIS  fighters are suspected to be hiding. With almost no other way of earning a living, Iraqis continue to make the dangerous journey to the desert.
November 17, 2019
OnSpec/02 - Salty Showers, Arab Spring Flowers
As protesters once again take to the streets of Baghdad, we take a step back to examine whether climate change has a hand in the political crisis in Iraq.  Shawn Carrié brings you a story through the eyes of activists that grounds the climate crisis — by transporting you to Iraq, where a water shortage led to massive protests in a country still reeling from war — and those protests brought down the government.
October 26, 2019
OnSpec/01 - Journalism on Trial
What's behind the crackdown on journalism in Turkey, and how are local journalists continuing to report? Özge Sebzeci, a Turkish photojournalist, takes us inside Turkey in an era when the country leads the world in jailing journalists. 
October 05, 2019
OnSpec/00 - Launch
Meet the On Spec team, the philosophy behind our project, and what to look forward to in Season Zero.
September 16, 2019