IN PURSUIT OF THE PUBLIC INTEREST
As an investigative reporter and award-winning TV producer, Okke Ornstein has an instinctive tendency to dig below the surface of things. He has filed stories for major media like NTR, Radio Netherlands, Het Parool, de Volkskrant and Newsmax. In late 2013, he traveled with a Dutch organization to Syria and covered the first European humanitarian flight there.
Ornstein began his career in advertising. As a freelance producer at McCann-Erickson, he worked on radio and TV commercials for major brands: Coca-Cola, Black & Decker, World Wildlife Fund, Canon, GoodYear and the Reynolds Tobacco Company.
He then moved on to TV, directing numerous episodes of “Taxi,” the highly successful show produced by IDTV for the NCRV with Maarten Spanjer as the taxi driver. “Taxi” won a Golden Rose at the prestigious Montreux Television festival, and subsequently the format was sold all over the world. In the US it’s known as “Taxicab Confessions,” produced by HBO.
Like most journalists, Ornstein is a staunch supporter of free speech and a free press. His 2014 TEDx talk covers fraud cases and free press issues in Panama. At about 8:13, he discusses the internet as the most dangerous environment for journalists to work in globally, how web-based journalists are under attack more than those who work in print and broadcast. He presents a revolutionary idea for Panama: making the country a haven for free speech, a free haven for data protection.
In 2015, Dutch public-service broadcaster NTR nominated a radio documentary about refugees by Ornstein for the Tegel in the Netherlands. His in-depth radio investigation “Barro Blanco,” about a hydroelectric dam in Panama that was funded by a Dutch bank and prompted questions in the Dutch Parliament about environmental and social consequences, was nominated for the Prix Europa in 2013. Most recently, Ornstein has worked for Dutch public broadcasters and Al-Jazeera.