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15.10.2013 - Article

In the latest of our “On a diplomatic mission” series our colleague follows the Foreign Minister with a video camera: a look behind the scenes at the Internet Division.

In our “On a diplomatic mission” series we have reported in 20 instalments since the beginning of the year on what our colleagues experience around the world – from Baghdad to Yangon and Yerevan. But what is the day-to-day work of our editorial team at www.diplo.de like? Laura Grünewald takes a look behind the scenes at the Internet Division.

At Christmas I hear that my first post at the Federal Foreign Office after completing my training will be in the Internet Division. While other colleagues are off to Lima, Addis Ababa and Kabul, I envisage my new job in Berlin to be something like this: Facebook, Twitter, designing the website and perhaps the odd interview. What I certainly wasn’t expecting was that six months later I would be hurtling through New York in a cavalcade with a police escort and following Foreign Minister Westerwelle with a camera!

Between computer monitor and camera lens

Foreign Minister Westerwelle seen through the camera of the Internet Division.
Foreign Minister Westerwelle seen through the camera of the Internet Division.© Photothek/Köhler

Work in the Internet Division is more interesting and varied than you would initially think. As part of the Press Division, our task is to feed the latest information, photos and articles about the work of the Federal Foreign Office into our website and the social media. At home in Berlin that usually means spending a lot of time in front of the computer monitor. But if the Foreign Minister goes off on trips then we go with him to report back on the visit as it happens, to upload photos straight after meetings with his foreign counterparts, to tweet and film a video of the trip for our media centre.

Talks marathon in New York

The visit to the UN General Assembly in New York turns out to be a talks marathon. The Luftwaffe Airbus A340 takes off around midnight and the Foreign Minister’s briefing with the journalists lasts into the early hours of the morning. We land in New York at 3 a.m. local time, but there’s hardly any time to sleep: we meet at 6.30 a.m. in front of the hotel to go and queue up at the UN Pass Office for our grounds pass, which allows us to access the UN premises.

The queue is endless. I don’t get my freshly printed pass until just before 8 a.m. and then I have to sprint. For Foreign Minister Westerwelle is due to make his first statement at 8 a.m. on the dot in front of German House. I reach Germany’s Permanent Mission diagonally opposite the UN building out of breath just as the Minister’s limousine draws up and he gets out of the car: film on. Just in the nick of time!

Diplomacy up close

Yasmin Raya of the Internet team (far right) records the Foreign Minister’s statement.
Yasmin Raya of the Internet team (far right) records the Foreign Minister’s statement.© Photothek/Imo

In the course of the day, however, the Minister’s schedule includes not only the statement but also the opening of the UN General Assembly, a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister, with the Secretary General of the Arab League, the president of the Syrian opposition and a briefing for German journalists. There’s no time for jetlag. The highlight of a seemingly endless day is at around 9.30 p.m.: a quickly arranged meeting with Iran’s newly elected President Rouhani.

Long before that, I’m sitting waiting with the journalists in the lobby of the Iranian delegation’s hotel, struggling to beat my tiredness. Then finally there’s a sign from the Iranian chief of protocol. Our photographer and I jump into the lift and arrive just in time for the crucial photo moment: a brief but friendly handshake between the Iranian President and the German Foreign Minister at the start of their talks – the highest level of contact between the German Government and the Iranian leadership for many years. Diplomacy up close. I quickly tweet a comment, upload the photographer’s photo and then fall exhausted into bed. A day in the Internet Division.

Video: Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the UN General Assembly in New York

Click here for more reports from our “On a diplomatic mission” series

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