Ministers, State Secretaries, Delegates, distinguished Partners, Ladies and Gentlemen.
This year’s Global Media Forum stands for on open discussion about Media – Freedom – and Values.
All of us are working for the advancement of open societies and the free exchange of information. But still, limitations on political action, on human rights and the freedom of speech continue to threaten the values we expect to be universal.
And - in today’s digital age, it has become easier to distribute disinformation and to manipulate. Therefore, we need to rethink the way in which we perceive, demonstrate and spread our values. Delivering our journalistic content to our audiences is calling for a new approach.
We at Deutsche Welle have set a determined course towards digitization. A vast number of our users is already being reached via mobile devices and Social Media. Of course, we will continue to broadcast linear television, produce radio programs and make our content available in thirty languages on our websites.
But the most efficient way of contributing to the global debate, is to enable as many of our users as possible to join in directly with solid knowledge of the facts through their preferred Social Media channels. Only when people are able to communicate freely, there will be change. The possibility to share ideas and values with others and the chance to inspire those, who are still under the control of dictatorial regimes.
DW has proven relations with more than four thousand distribution partners around the world, who are helping us to distribute our content and making it possible for us to reach out to ever more people. Our distribution partners will be playing a vital part in the new digital strategy at Deutsche Welle. Mobile access to information is a growing factor in many of DW’s target markets. We want to grasp this opportunity and make sure that our content is available to our users on all distribution channels. The workflows within DW are currently undergoing the transition from a multi-media broadcaster to a true digital global information provider.
A new element of this important process are co-productions. DW has identified members of our partner network who not only share the same values we stand for. They are also outstanding sources for journalistic content in their regions.
This is a first in international broadcasting. And an important step in recognizing the value of the contribution of regional partners. Together, we have begun co-producing content, which is being broadcast on all channels of both, DW and her partners. We truly appreciate the local expertise and perspective which our regional partners contribute and we are thankful for their insight, which no international broadcaster could provide to its users without them.
We want freedom of speech to be a universal right. We expect journalists to be able to be critical without having to fear retribution. Sadly, this is being impaired in more and more countries.
The drastic interference with freedom of the press in Turkey is the most recent example. Critical media are facing harassment by henchmen of President Erdogan’s governing party. Journalists are being dragged into court on constructed charges of supporting terrorism.
To see what has become of this president, is a sad thing to see for any friend of Turkey. Not his critics are damaging the reputation of the Turkish nation, but he himself. And also in Europe, in the heart of the EU, freedom of the press cannot be taken for granted. National–conservative governments in Hungary and Poland are mounting pressure against journalists, who are not agreeable to their policies. This is aimed especially against public service broadcasting.
Each country is different, of course. We have to listen to the arguments of those now in charge – and consider them. And we should avoid blanket judgements. But nothing – and I stress – nothing – justifies a limitation of the freedom of expression to be rooted within a democratic constitution.
Even here in Germany, the enemies of the freedom of the press are at work. Right-wing populists of all shapes label journalists as “lying press”. They cannot tolerate diversity, because for them “the truth” equals only their own opinion.
The freedom of the press can also be undermined by journalists themselves. If they don’t research with due diligence, if they copy without checking the facts, or if they scandalize every harmless occurence. Because thus, they provide arguments to their enemies.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us be fully aware of one thing:
The end of the freedom of expression is also the beginning of the end of democracy. There are simply no more excuses when this point is reached. Each and every one of us is called upon, to stand up and demand the freedom of expression loud and clear.
And another thing we need to realize in our globalized world with all its problems: Nationalism is no solution. International cooperation, open-mindedness and the exchange of knowledge make us progress. This is precisely what we at Deutsche Welle stand up for – this is our mission!
Let me close by inviting you to make the Global Media Forum a place, where inspiring debates shall lead to solutions and a better understanding of the challenges ahead.
So: Welcome to the GMF and thank you all for your valuable contribution to a new outlook for a better tomorrow.
DW Director General Peter Limbourg
The spoken word is binding.