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Reporting on rights

June 20, 2011

Human rights and media take center stage at Deutsche Welle's Global Media Forum, which runs from June 20 to 22. In view of global developments, the German government wants to bring more attention to human rights.

Children in finish a bowl of rice and beans
German development policy will be geared to human rightsImage: AP

For the fourth time, Deutsche Welle has invited politicians, experts and journalists to Bonn, Germany, for the Global Media Forum. This year examines "Human rights in a globalized world: challenges for the media."

In the course of the forum, Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz, deputy minister for economic cooperation and development, will explain the new concept behind German development policy, which he recently presented in Berlin.

"The main change is that from now on it will be obligatory to orientate ourselves according to human rights," he said, adding that observance of human rights would be an integral part of Germany's work in international organizations and in its dialogue with countries around the world.

He emphasized that Germany must fulfill its so-called extraterritorial state duties. But states' duty to guarantee human rights on a national and international level is often difficult, such as when it comes to monitoring transnational companies.

Watching for abuse

Officials look at labor conditions on sugar plantations in Brazil
Working standards will be on the agenda at the Global Media ForumImage: PTR15

Inhumane working conditions and environmental pollution are among the drawbacks of globalization. That's why around 1,500 participants from 100 countries will be taking part in workshops and discussions looking at how media can deal with the increasing demands for information, analysis and evaluation of global circumstances in a more satisfactory way.

Deutsche Welle Director General Erik Bettermann said he believes media can be a powerful instrument for implementing human rights. The development of media distribution channels like weblogs and social media make the media world more democratic.

But Joel Simon, executive director of the committee to protect journalists (CPJ), said the case of Syria shows how difficult spreading information can be for citizen journalists in closed societies. He said the current situation in Syria showed the limitations of not having professional, institutional journalists reporting on events.

"We know something about what is happening in Syria but it's fragmented," Simon said. "It's bits and pieces of information, it's very difficult to put it all together, it's very difficult to understand the context."

Filling the media gap

Syrian soldiers and armored vehicles on a road
The Syrian government has blocked out international mediaImage: dapd

He added that the Syrian government's systematic attempts to keep international media out of the country and to stop domestic media from operating had been effective, which meant that citizen journalists and human rights activists have had to take their place.

"We obviously benefit from that but our understanding of events is fragmented and partial and that's obviously not an acceptable situation," Simon said.

To accompany the three-day conference in Bonn, many of Deutsche Welle's programs will be looking at the status of human rights around the world. Basic needs like the right to fair working conditions, the right to food and the right to housing are at the very heart of Deutsche Welle's multimedia project "Human Rights 2011," which is available in 30 languages. DW-TV will also focus on the situation in the Arab world this week, and will look at international labor and social standards as well as fair-trade products.

Author: Ulrike Mast-Kirschning / mm

Editor: Sean Sinico