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'Freedom of Press - the fabric of healthy societies'

  • Published at 09:42 pm June 2nd, 2019
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier DW

German President Steinmeier warns politicians not to fall into the trap of blaming technology for recent landscape changes

Freedom of press is fabric of any healthy society but unfortunately the space of the fourth estate is on the decline in almost every country in the world for the past few years, said speakers in the recently concluded two-day long Deutsche Welle (DW) Global Media Forum (GMF) 2019.

They termed the muzzling of press worldwide a much worrying sign for those aspiring for inclusion, fairness, and equality irrespective of race, creed, or religion.

The speakers urged everyone to stand shoulder to shoulder to do whatever possible within their capabilities to reverse the trend.  They in various sessions said, it is needed to ensure the freedom of media.

Agreeing that social media is now "a reality of the day," they put emphasis on ensuring their responsibilities without placing undue mechanisms in place to control them.

DW organized the event in the German city of Bonn from May 27 to 28.

The theme of this year's GMF was "Shifting Powers." The German Federal Foreign Office was one of the major partners of the 12th edition of GMF.

According to DW: "Our world order has become unstable. We are witnessing an increasing rejection of the global norms, and values designed to safeguard lasting peace. Above all, the principle of multilateralism, and its security policies based on international cooperation are slowly being eroded.

"Instead, inflated national egos, and unilateral policies are taking centre stage, along with growing populism, and widespread restrictions on human rights," DW explains, adding that the powerful nations of the world are shifting their economic, and military strength towards new political alliances.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, inaugurated one of the biggest media conferences via video conference in an interview with DW Director General Peter Limbourg on Monday, at the historical World Conference Centre Bonn (WCCB)—which is housed in the building that used to serve as Germany's lower house of parliament (Bundestag) until 1999.

Now, the city of Berlin houses the German Parliament.  

Around 2,000 participants from 140 countries belonging to various segments of society, including media, politics, civil society, culture, science, and business, gathered to discuss the current, and possible future state of media in the time of "shifting powers."

When asked by Limbourg about the way the traditional landscape has changed and diversified, German President Steinmeier warned politicians not to fall into the trap of blaming technology for those changes.

"Needless to say, these developments have changed the way we communicate both privately and politically," Steinmeier said, adding the number of people who use social media to politically inform themselves has increased.

The German president also said that, for him the most worrying aspect was the way the use of social media had changed the tone of political discourse, and that social media has a "clear responsibility".

President Steinmeier explained: "It can be quite relentless; positions are very often just black and white with little in between, and no incentive to compromise. Those who hold a contrary opinion are often labelled as an opponent or enemy."

Politics and democracy in this day and age need to embrace digitalization, but it is a two-way street, in which it is important to "democratize digitalization," said the president, adding that the current stranglehold of a few tech firms on the global media landscape is a danger to democracy.

"And those platforms have a clear responsibility to live up to their requirements and standards," he added.

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