When I arrived at the prizeotel Hamburg-St Pauli Hotel, it was around 11pm.
As I was having a brief conversation with the receptionist about my pre-booking information, someone asked me from behind whether I was a GIJN (Global Investigative Journalism Network) fellow. I was a bit surprised to hear someone speaking English in South Asian accent at this hour of the night in this European country.
"Yes," I replied and asked him where he was from.
"I am from Nepal. Your accent sounds like that of Asian people. Where are you from?" he asked.
"I am from Bangladesh," I said.
This was the first conversation I had with Deepak Kharel and we immediately became good friends. From the next day, we started going to the conference together by bus. I had a lot of discussions with him about his country's culture, economic situation, the state of journalism etc.
Like Deepak, I made many journalist friends from around the world when I attended the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2019 in Hamburg. 1,700 journalists from 130 countries attended the conference.
It was a great event in my life to attended such a large gathering of investigative journalists who came from many different parts of the world. I got inspiration from the dynamic researchers who conducted various sessions at the conference.
For instance, I became a fan of an online researcher named Paul Myers after attending his session titled "Internet Investigation." In the session, I learned various tools to find out people on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
After the session, I met Paul personally and introduced myself. Paul, who is the lead consultant for BBC Investigation Support initiative, told me about his work. Soon we became friends and I learned many things from him. We discussed how journalism is shifting from print to digital space and how digital search tools have made investigation easier for journalists.
Talking to Paul was a great experience for me as we discussed many interesting issues like the impact of Brexit on British society. Paul said Brexit is a divisive issue, with the older generation supporting it while the young people are against it.
After the conference, we had snacks together. Paul ordered his favorite food avocado sandwich for both of us. I met Paul's friend Pamela Eichmer, an attendee of the conference. I came to know that Pamela is the wife of GIJN Executive Director David Kaplan.
I found Pamela a very nice and energetic lady. She was sharing interesting stories about experiencing local cuisines in different countries.
Pamela invited me to join a music show in the evening where GIJN's own band performed. I was surprised to see that David Kaplan was playing harmonica on the stage. After organising such a huge programme, Kaplan's energetic performance to entertain the attendees was really inspiring.
Pamela was in the audience and I saw her dancing joyfully. I joined Pamela and danced.
During the show, I met Anya Schiffrin, a professor at Columbia University in the Unites States. Anya was dancing with her African student who completed a journalism fellowship at the journalism school of the university. We had a discussion on how the fellowship helped that journalist develop his skills.
Anya suggested that I check the fellowship programme out if I want to develop my career.
I also enjoyed two other special events – canal cruise and a gathering in the Cruise Centre HafenCity – as those were very helpful for informal networking. In the cruise centre, I met many people who work in development organisations linked with the media community.
In that event, I met a female investigative journalist who came from a South American country. She was sharing her journalism experience and the economic situation of her country with me. I learned that journalism is challenging not only in Bangladesh but in other countries too.
The South American journalist said that the prime minister of her country is very corrupt and his brother is now in jail in a corruption case. Journalists in her country have been facing hurdles to do investigative reports on corruption.
I also met Laurens Nijzink, editor of the magazine ZAM in Amsterdam. He was looking for a buyer to sell out his magazine. He told me how the news media in his country has been facing financial hardships.
"ZAM has been around for 24 years. Now I want to sell it out due to financial crisis," he said.