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On Spec Podcast

A long form documentary podcast produced by independent journalists from the field, bringing stories from across the globe. See for privacy and opt-out information.


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.
33:06 25/07/2022
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.
16:34 12/07/2022
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.
31:37 03/07/2022
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. 
14:11 26/06/2022
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.
34:19 18/06/2022
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.
37:04 12/06/2022
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.
23:55 05/06/2022
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.
29:06 22/05/2022
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.
34:16 07/05/2022
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.
31:09 23/04/2022
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.
16:27 17/04/2022
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.
33:57 09/04/2022
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.
28:22 27/03/2022
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.
02:48 19/03/2022
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.
42:39 05/03/2022
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.
26:30 05/06/2021
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.
43:38 01/05/2021
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.
39:51 17/04/2021
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. 
21:13 11/04/2021
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?
44:49 03/04/2021
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.
31:13 20/03/2021
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.
38:31 06/03/2021
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.
37:32 20/02/2021
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.
01:35 18/02/2021
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.
29:43 03/02/2021
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.
29:39 11/01/2021
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.
89:04 01/11/2020
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.
15:11 12/09/2020
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.
62:30 16/08/2020
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.
21:28 08/08/2020