DW Director General Erik Bettermann paid a visit to a youth radio project of DW Akademie in Guatemala on May 15. The next stop on his trip to Central America was El Salvador.
“Why do we need a radio for young people?” was the theme of the discussion between Erik Bettermann and the staff of the youth radio “Radio Joven” - a project of the DW Akademie. Bettermann stressed that radio is the right way to reach young people in Guatemala in order to improve their access to education. The broadcasts must be in the language of young people.
“Radio Joven” works towards this goal. Young people produce programs for their own age group. Bettermann called on those making the broadcasts to pay attention to the different perspectives of rural and urban youth, as well as to the outlook of the indigenous population. Yesenia Pérez, who is a young radio moderator, shares his view. She herself wears a traditional Maya costume: a colorful woven skirt and an embroidered blouse. “People in the city often look down on me because of the way I dress. We don’t have the same opportunities as white kids,” she said.
“You can do something about inequality”
Bettermann stressed that this is precisely a field where the youth radio project can get involved. The more that young people’s cultural diversity is there for all to see, the greater are the possibilities to offset racism and prejudice. “Rural young people are also your country’s future. You can do something about inequality through well-made broadcasts.”
DW Director General encouraged the young people to take on taboo subjects, such as coming to terms with their country’s recent troubled past. Adults prefer not to talk to the younger generation about Guatemala’s civil war, which lasted for over 30 years.
Bettermann talked about his own experiences in postwar Germany. His generation called on their parents to talk openly about the Nazi era and gave priority to discussing and analyzing what happened during that dark period in German history. The goal of the DW Akademie’s youth radio project is to set up a production center for radio and for multimedia platforms aimed at young people.
El Salvador plans to set up a public broadcaster
In San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, Bettermann joined more than 80 participants in a discussion put on by Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation entitled “How can we ensure free and independent journalism in Central America?” DW Moderator Gonzalo Caceres chaired a panel that included Bettermann as well as the Salvadoran journalist Jimena Aguilar (“El Faro”), Martin Rodriguez (“Plaza Publica”) from Guatemala, and Honduran freelance journalist Manuel Torres. They discussed the relationship between security and freedom of the press and of expression, as well as the social and economic possibilities for development in Central America.
At the national University of San Salvador, Bettermann spoke to over 100 students about how the media function in Germany and about the importance of independent media for the development of a democratic society. He talked with the university’s president about ways to improve the training and professional work of people working in El Salvador’s media.
In a meeting with Bettermann, Salvadoran Minister of Communications of the Presidency David Rivas, who is responsible for national radio and TV, announced that his country is planning to set up a public broadcaster. He asked DW Director General for support in this process.
The last stop on Bettermann’s trip to Central America is Cuba, where he will meet with people working in the media and at media-related departments of institutions of higher education.