“Any ruler who chokes freedom of press will fail in the long run”


Ten years ago, the first global media forum took place here in Bonn. Those were relatively quiet times. There had been no financial crisis, no bloodied disintegration of the large part of the Arab World, no streams of refugees coming to Europe. There was no war in Ukraine. Nationalism was a relatively marginal occurrence. Donald Trump controlled a TV show and nuclear codes. Brexit was the vision of a relatively small minority.

Peter Limbourg at Global Media Forum

Today we find ourselves in turbulent times, which also have consequences for our world. International broadcasting is experiencing a renaissance. As the number of crises and conflicts increase, so does the importance of the international broadcasters. This entails a growing responsibility for comprehensive and objective reporting.  International broadcasters should never take sides with only one exception; when it comes to human rights. Our main job is to inform. Our listeners, readers and viewers rely on us. We want to enable them to make better decisions based on our information to improve their understanding of the world. To make one thing absolutely clear, the media are not the enemy of the people. We are working to people’s interests. And I have a message.

We all should have this message for all despots, autocrats and dictators. You will not oppress freedom of speech forever. Freedom of speech is stronger than you are. Any ruler who chokes freedom of press will fail in the long run. People want more than prosperity and security. They also want freedom and justice. That’s what we at DW are working for. We are also demanding President Erdogan to release German, Turkish and other hundreds of journalists currently in prisons in Turkey.

Ladies and gentlemen, media also has to promote the exchange of ideas and build bridges even between seemingly unbridgeable positions…The media needs to have the will to change, to admit their own mistakes and deal with criticism. And I am deeply convinced that we need fewer sad stories about what doesn’t work and more motivating stories about what does work about people everywhere in the world, who are moving something along and bringing about positive change, especially in Africa.

For journalists, the digitalisation (sic) first and foremost means the direct links to our users. Today a successful media company must understand social media as a distinct medium. For international broadcasters, social media offer a great opportunity to reach out to our users directly on their mobile phones. We can reach many more people with our content if it’s objective and relevant.

Ladies and gentlemen, Global Media Forum isn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary. Ten years ago, the first iPhone was introduced. Since then there have been enormous changes. Media usage has been revolutionised and the pace of innovation has dramatically increased. So, we will have to make efforts to keep up.

(The content above are excerpts from the key note speech delivered by Peter Limbourg, the Director General of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle during the 10th edition of the Global Media Forum in Bonn. Janta Ka Reporter’s editor-in-chief, Rifat Jawaid was invited as one of the participants. This is the second of our series on the event.)

From Germany, Part 1: Journalists being called anti-nationals in India: ‘Take this as badge of honour’

Coming up: Rifat Jawaid exclusively speaks to Deutsche Welle’s Director General, Peter Limbourg