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Global Media Forum

Stefan Dege (th)
June 2, 2008

What is the role of media in peacebuilding and conflict prevention? The first Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum seeks to create an international dialogue on these issues during a conference this week in Bonn, Germany.

Freelance British journalist, James Miller who was killed in Rafah, Gaza Strip
Journalism can be a dangerous professionImage: AP

The genocide in Sudan, civil war in Zimbabwe, human rights abuses in Burma or Tibet are examples of violence and repressions brought to our attention thanks to the efforts of a free media. Engaged and courageous journalists expose and denounce these types of injustice. Every day, around the world, they are forming the knowledge of our globe.

What exactly can and should media do? What dangers come with peacebuilding and conflict prevention? These and other questions were discussed at the first Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, which started Monday, June 2.

Getting to the heart of the story

Two fighters of the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots, one of them a child soldier
A free press reports on painful issues such as the use of child soldiersImage: AP

Profound sadness and wild determination are mixed in the face of a possibly 12-year-old girl. Next to her braided hair a Kalashnikov sat ready. The journalist Peter Mantello risked his life to fotograph this child soldier in Burma. The military regime in the Asian country does not look kindly on such photos being published and after the recent deadly cyclone restricted press efforts to report from the devestated zone.

Mantello's photos are now on display in Bonn, part of a photo exhibit "Forced to be Cruel." For more than two days about 800 journalists, politicians, academics and cultural figures from around the world will discuss media issues.

The theme "Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention" could not have been more timely as two Deutsche Welle journalists were recently killed in Afghanistan. But the conference in Bonn is about dialogue, not navel gazing.

"The role of journalism and the media must be discussed and defined. That goes equally for peacebuilding and crisis prevention, governance and human rights, civil society and transmission of values, education and development," said Deutsche Welle's Director General Erik Bettermann.

No democracy without free press

A peacekeeper on foot patrol in Lebanon
European soldiers take part in peacekeeping missionsImage: AP

What is Europe doing about the crises in the world? This question is at the center of congressional debates. For some time, crisis prevention has been one of the four basic components of the EU's foreign policy.

The European Union has undertaken plenty of peace missions. It had soldiers take part in United Nations peacekeeping missions to Helmets safeguarded elections in Congo. EU police monitored the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Eu forces were involved in helping build security and legal institutions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and in former communist countries.

But there is still a lot which needs to be done, said Georg Boomgarden, State Secretary for the German Foreign Office.

"Journalism is holy"

Shirin Ebadi at the Global Media Forum
Schirin Ebadi said journalism is a holy callingImage: DW

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi spoke during the conference's opening day.

"When violence is detected, the human conscience is also awakened," Ebadi said. "There you can find an answer. Journalistic work is both a dangerous and a holy job."

Deutsche Welle broadcasts from central Europe around the world via radio, television and Internet. Even so, two-thirds of people live in countries where free press and media freedom remain foreign words. Deutsche Welle journalists help to build free media outlets– such as after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum will take place regularly in Bonn. The main agenda items will change, but the event will always address ways to cope with challenges which are largely influenced by the global media.