Inequality around the world is the topic of the 11th Global Media Forum in Bonn. Participants will discuss how media outlets can address the issue and show what can be done to alleviate such a problem in the first place.
When decision-makers from the worlds of politics and business, as well as journalists, scientists and representatives from non-governmental organizations, thumb through their calendars for appointments in June, three days are often already booked for the DW Global Media Forum (GMF) in Bonn. This year's conference, the 11th, will take place from June 11 to 13 and cover the theme of global inequalities.
Over the last decade the Global Media Forum has firmly established its position as Germany's largest international media conference. This year, some 2,000 guests from 120 nations are expected to take part. DW Director General Peter Limbourg says this makes the GMF "a unique platform for exchange between international journalists and media managers from our partners across the globe — and with people who are engaged in upholding freedom of the press and media."
"Every year, the Global Media Forum illustrates just how well-connected Deutsche Welle really is," Limbourg adds. "We can learn a lot through exchange and dialogue."
At the Freedom of Speech Awards, Limbourg will lead a discussion on the future of Europe with author Navid Kermani
'Mobile phones as agents of change'
Verica Spasovska, who, for the first time, is responsible for the program of this year's GMF, says a large number of this year's registrations came from Pakistan, Bangladesh and African nations.
"Thanks to the wonderful cooperation of the German Foreign Ministry," according to GMF Managing Director Guido Schmitz, some 100 journalists from developing and emerging nations will be able to participate in this year's conference. Schmitz also lauded the GMF's partnership with the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, calling it "important for the conference's success."
This year the GMF will address the topic of global inequality in some 60 different events. On the political front, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will attend, as well as Afghanistan's former president, Hamid Karzai — who caused a stir before the conference began by squarely blaming Pakistan and the US for his country's desolate situation in a DW interview.
On a more practical level, one of the most anticipated journalists appearing at the conference will be Yusuf Omar. Known as the pioneer of "mobile reporting," he will explain how smartphones can be used in the fight against inequality. "If the pen is mightier than the sword, then the cellphone is our most powerful instrument of change," Omar told DW in a pre-conference interview.
For DW's Limbourg, another important aspect of the GMF is "that we deal with ideas about where inequality arises — in fact, is almost seen as normal — and what we can do to confront it. Even if we know there will never be absolute equality around the world, we must nevertheless strive toward establishing the same fundamental rights for all. In concrete terms, that also forces us to reflect upon how that affects our reporting."
Limbourg will not just attend the GMF opening. "A very important event for me is the presentation of the Freedom of Speech Awards, where I will have the pleasure of leading a discussion on the future of Europe with [German author] Navid Kermani," he explained.
'More interactive and participatory'
Program planner Spasovska has put great emphasis on expanding the interactive, participatory and discursive nature of this year's event. "We have cut down on the number of panels comprised of three or four experts discussing among themselves on stage. Instead, we have increased the number of events in which speakers sit among audiences," she says.
A social-media team will ensure that questions and ideas raised at the events are quickly uploaded onto Twitter, and the conference will also be livestreamed, ensuring that those who cannot physically make it to Bonn can still be virtual participants. "Last year, some 40,000 people watched livestreams from the conference," says Spasovska.
Another novelty this year is that the final day of the conference will not deal with the GMF's main topic of global inequalities, but will instead be wholly dedicated to "the challenges and opportunities that digitalization presents for media producers." The third day of the GMF bears the title "Media Innovation Lab Day" and will have its own unique profile.
"People will be giving talks in the auditorium, presenting and discussing various ideas in 30-minute slots. Additionally, there will be a number of workshops where people can learn new things and where new ideas will be presented. There will also be a number of 'best practices' sessions — these are all things that are very much at the heart of media production," says Spasovska.
Using drones to map inequality
An exhibition of images by South Africa-based photographer Johnny Miller will also directly address the topic of global inequalities. "The images are very impressive, showing the direct proximity of slums and villas in a number of major cities across the globe," says Spasovska. The conference will be accompanied by music, too, with performances by artists such as the German reggae singer Patrice Bart-Williams and British poet-singer Anne Clark.
The conference's offerings make Limbourg optimistic about the future of the Global Media Forum. Yet, he adds, "It is important that we continue to develop and expand the Global Media Forum in order to live up to our own expectations — namely, making the GMF the world's most important international media conference."