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Germany: Reporting on the Berlin Wall

To mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s reunification, the DW-AKADEMIE invited young Latin American journalists to take part in an online workshop looking at Germany’s recent history.

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Interviewing politicians and first-hand witnesses, and then producing journalistic reports for their own website – ten young journalists from Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru came to Germany to take part in a DW-AKADEMIE workshop on Germany’s post-war separation and reunification. The eleven-day workshop was financed for the third year in a row by the Federal Foreign Office and focused on online journalism, journalism ethics, and above all on the way journalists can address the past.

07.2010 DW-AKADEMIE Medienentwicklung Lateinamerika Deutschland Mauerberichterstattung 4

Vice president of the Bundestag Wolfgang Thierse (left)

A highlight was a meeting with the vice president of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, who himself comes from the former East Germany. “The talk with Mr. Thierse was particularly impressive for many participants because meetings with politicians in their own countries are usually different, less open,” says project manager Matthias Kopp. “The way Germany is coming to terms with the former German Democratic Republic and its dictatorship can be very instructive for journalists who are confronted with similar processes in their own countries.”

In Argentina, for example, dealing with historical sites which originated during the military dictatorship – such as the torture centre in the military academy ESMA – continues to be controversial. The terror initiated by the “Shining Path” organization in Peru in the last 20 years is also not being addressed. “This is something the government prefers to play down, it pushes history aside,” says Peruvian workshop participant Janeth Sarmiento Villavicencio. “That’s why remembrance work, knowing how to research historical topics and presenting them journalistically is so important to me, so that the people in my country can learn more about the past.”

For online journalists Manuel Linares from Peru and José Rivera Costales from Ecuador, the DW-AKADEMIE workshop ‘Reporting on the Berlin Wall’ showed that with help from journalists something new and positive can arise from a difficult past.

07.2010 DW-AKADEMIE Medienentwicklung Lateinamerika Deutschland Mauerberichterstattung 2

As an incentive to these and the other participants, three of the online reports produced during the workshop will be premiered. The DW-AKADEMIE, the Federal Foreign Office and the federal foundation set up to address the legacy of the East German dictatorship, the ‘Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur,’ will present the prizes at the beginning of October to mark the conclusion of this three-part journalistic workshop series. The winners will then also have the opportunity to report to their own media on a special day for Germany – the 20th anniversary of German reunification.

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