DW Akademie turns 50 this year. Director Christian Gramsch looks at the milestones and challenges of our worldwide commitment, and about the new regional focus of our media development activities.
DW Akademie’s 50th anniversary motto is "Developing Media. Strengthening Human Rights." Why did you choose this motto?
We chose it because we think it clearly expresses what we do and what our goal is. But it also illustrates how DW Akademie’s work has changed over the last five decades. When we started in 1965, we were called the Deutsche Welle Training Center and that’s what we did: we trained radio technicians and journalists from developing countries. Our first training project brought Rwandan technicians to Germany. Since then we’ve greatly expanded the scope of our activities, and our work has become much more comprehensive and more political in nature.
One thing, though, has not changed, and that is that all our activities continue to be based on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 clearly states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
While almost all countries in the world have committed themselves to supporting and promoting this right, reality shows that freedom of expression is still restricted in many places. An analysis by the non-governmental organization Freedom House found that around the globe, only one person in seven has the right to express his or her opinion freely and without restrictions. Our goal, then, is to support people in demanding and exercising this right.
How do you do this in practical terms?
We support people in this by supporting media around the world, because this is the only way that people can really play an active role in their societies. Our projects are now designed to run for three to four years, and go far beyond earlier training courses that lasted just a few weeks or months. Nowadays, the topics we explore together with our partners are diverse and complex. For example, we look at how media outlets can support themselves financially over the long term, or how to create successful training programs for aspiring journalists. We look at building and organizing public media structures. And we look at the skills people need for working with different types of media that will enable them to actively participate in public dialogues. It's extremely important that we develop these projects in close cooperation with our partners because this ensures that the projects are custom made to meet local needs.
Where is DW Akademie currently active?
Right now, we have projects in some 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa. In 25 of these countries we’re focusing on long-term strategies and projects designed in accordance with a new strategic orientation established in 2013, and in close cooperation with Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). We're concentrating on strategic areas which we all feel play a key role in developing free and independent media landscapes. Long-term engagement like this enables us to pursue an integrated approach and is at the same time a valuable signal to our partners and people on the ground.
DW Akademie is not only involved in media development. What are the other focuses?
We offer an international Master's program in both Bonn and Istanbul for journalists and media managers, and we also train up-and-coming Deutsche Welle journalists. Because DW itself has evolved over the decades we, too, have changed aspects of our training programs to meet the worldwide demands of the media profession. As of May, our newly-designed international traineeship program will be bilingual and have a multimedia focus.
We also publish academic studies on developments in the media sector, such as our comprehensive study on the transformation of state-run media. Research results like these contribute to the formulation of new global development goals.
Our media training courses in Germany and abroad are aimed at managers and authorities from the world of politics and civil society; we coach them in working with the media and conducting dialogues with the public. And our innovative programs for learning German invite people around the world to take a closer look at Germany and the German culture.
In everything we do, DW Akademie's activities continue to be aimed at our overall goal: "Developing Media. Strengthening Human Rights."