Journalists, politicians and activists debate issues of identity and diversity for three days in Bonn. DW hands out its 'Freedom of Speech Award' at a conference packed with workshops, panel discussions, art and music.
"Ten years ago, we held the first Global Media Forum (GMF) here in Bonn - in what were relatively calm times," said DW's Director General, Peter Limbourg, in his opening address on Monday. That was before the financial crisis and the bloody collapse of large parts of the Arab world, before refugees started moving into Europe in large numbers, and before the war in Ukraine, he added. "Nationalism was but a fringe aspect, Donald Trump had a TV show but no nuclear missiles, and but a small minority was dreaming of a Brexit."
Times today are more tumultuous, Limbourg said, and that "affects the work of journalists, and foreign broadcasters in particular." There is a direct correlation between the level of national oppression and the use of international broadcasters, the head of DW told the conference. "Broadcasters that are seen to be reliable are at an advantage."
This year, the focus is on the digital future in the workplace, GMF Director Patrick Leusch said: "Journalism is caught in a huge bubble, everyone is sender and receiver, and the big question is, How can we still be credible?" Leusch said.
Credibility is the very issue panelists are discussing at the start of the congress - "The proliferation of lies - media in the post-truth political era" - and it is bound to crop up again over the course of the forum meetings in discussions on filter bubbles and the rise of populism.
An expected 2,000 guests from 130 countries can choose among about 40 events, ranging from small workshops on private formats by invitation only to large forum presentations. Participants include international decision-makers like European Parliament Secretary-General Klaus Welle, UNESCO deputy director general Frank La Rue, businessman and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty as well as Carmen Perez, co-founder of the US Women's March initiative.
Michal Kosinski, a US psychologist, data scientist and assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, will be taking a close look at "The end of privacy."
Kosinski, whose research focuses on studying humans via the digital footprints they leave behind while using digital platforms and devices, is said to have initiated Cambridge Analytica, a firm that reportedly created detailed profiles of millions of American voters in the US presidential elections last year by using publicly accessible data - data-driven communication used in turn by Donald Trump's campaign team.
Signal for press freedom
A highlight: the Freedom of Speech Award, which this year goes to the White House Correspondents' Association. "The freedom of the press must always be protected all over the world because it is the key to a functioning democracy and thus the observation of human rights," DW Director General Limbourg noted in an earlier statement. "DW wanted to set an example."
A novelty: the conference's third and last day will be dedicated to practical journalistic work - by instituting the Media Innovation Lab, GMF Director Leusch said, organizers have reacted to calls by participants in the past for a more "hands-on" approach.
In short order, experts will speak to the audience about the digital future. Conference guests will also have the chance to look into virtual reality projects, a drone project and a 360-degree journalism project.
Speakers on Wednesday include Swedish biohacker activist Hannes Sjoblad, who experiments with technology and the body, for instance by implanting RFID chips under people's skin for close communication.
Sound, art, satire
Art, culture and humor are high on the agenda in 2017, too. Norwegian artist Maia Urstad developed a sound art project especially for the GMF - and with an eye on the issue of diversity, she used material from DW's audio archives in 30 languages. Hamburg-based photojournalist Kevin McElvaney also created a project for the GMF, a variation of his touching Mirror Project.
Visitors can enjoy performances by German pop singer Joy Denalane and Vietnamese singer Mai Khoi. Satire is on the agenda, too - in a panel talk entitled "Satire as a weapon" and, taking a lighter approach, in satiric news flashes by the Zambezi News team from Zimbabwe. "We believe that in the future, conferences will no longer function only on a cognitive level - they have to be inspiring on all levels," Patrick Leusch said. "That's why we tried to add fun aspects."
For anyone who is interested but can't make it to Bonn - check out the live stream on the GMF website that allows access to individual rooms and events, and the option to join a chat if you want to participate.