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Changing Europe – Political Turning Points and the Freedom of the Media

2 November 2016

Panel Discussion about freedom of the press, Saturday 22 October 2016

In the festival’s anniversary year many of the media all over the world are under enormous political and economic pressure. Assuming that quality journalism cannot exist without unconditional freedom of expression, we asked, how media professionals are able to work in these turbulent times? A public panel discussion, organised by PRIX EUROPA together with the Federal Agency for Civic Education (BPB) and Reporters Without Borders on Saturday 22 October 2016 in Haus des Rundfunks, provided some answers.

You can watch the discussion in full length here:

The panellists were:
Prof. Dr. Marlis Prinzing (German Media scientist, journalist and book author)
Andrey Allakhverdov (Russian journalist and Greenpeace activist)
Can Dündar (Turkish Journalist, former chief editor of the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet)
Charlie Beckett (British, Director of the Media Think Tank POLIS at the London School of

Moderation: Britta Hilpert, spokeswoman of the board of Reporters Without Borders and Head of the ZDF Studio in Brandenburg.

Prof. Dr. Marlis Prinzing
Media scientist, journalist and book author. She is currently teaching journalism at the Macromedia University in Cologne, writing for the Media Lab column of the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel and editing a book series about the challenges of journalism in the modern media society.

Statement of Prof. Dr. Marlis Prinzing on behalf of freedom of press in Europe:
‘Nowhere else journalists are able to work as independent as in European countries.
But if you have a closer look, you identify freedom of the press as a norm being always vulnerable. For example by legislative initiatives advancing increasingly restrictive media policies, by changing ownership structures in media companies, by refugee movements being exploited by populists pressuring open-minded media coverage and by growing efforts in digital surveillance justified as prevention of terrorist attacks but actually effecting free reporting, guaranteed protection of journalistic sources and a more reasonable handling with whistleblowing.
For sure, there are committed seismographs within international initiatives and organisations. For sure, the Council of Europe and the European Union implemented certain standards as important counterparts. But this is not enough.
All those forces are forced to insist untiringly on the independence of journalism and on privileges protecting journalistic research within a digital media society.’

Andrey Allakhverdov
His career of 25 years as a radio journalist started with a short experience at the Radio Moscow World Service, then in the early 1990s he worked for five years for Radio Russia, followed by his work for the BBC World Service project in Russia. In 1999 this project transformed into the Foundation for independent Radio Broadcasting – a Russian NGO producing radio programmes and training radio journalists. For 14 years he was the Foundation’s editor-in-chief. Since 2013 Andrey Allakhverdov has been working as a media communications person for Greenpeace – first in Russia and now in Poland.

Statement of Andrey Allakhverdov on behalf of freedom of press in Russia:
‘Few remaining independent media risk law-suits and huge fines for the reports they publish, that can ruin their businesses. Their staff can be fired and sometimes physically assaulted. The state has a huge and well-organized propaganda machine that replaced journalistic reporting. There is almost no public demand for quality journalism. This led to the general deterioration of the journalistic profession, thriving self-censorship, and a dramatic fall of the level of public debate on the main political, economic and social issues.’

Can Dündar
Turkish journalist, documentary filmmaker and author. As former chief editor of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, he was accused of espionage in 2015 and subsequently arrested. After three months, the Turkish Constitutional Court declared his custody unlawful and the authorities had to release him. In the following trial in May 2016 President Erdoğan personally asked for his life-long imprisonment. Dündar was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months imprisonment. The judgment has not yet come into effect. Dündar appealed against it and left Turkey in the meantime.
Among other decorations Cumhuriyet received the Reporters Without Borders-TV5 Monde Award in 2015 and the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm in 2016.

Statement of Can Dündar on behalf of freedom of press in Turkey:
‘In Turkey:
120 media workers are in prison.
124 media outlets were closed,
leaving 2300 media workers jobless.
Turkey has become the biggest prison for journalists under the state of emergency.’

Charlie Beckett
Director of the Media Think Tank POLIS at the London School of Economics as well as professor in the Department of Media and Communications. He is a regular blogger and commentator on journalism and politics for the UK and International media. With 20 years of experience as a senior journalist at the BBC, London Weekend Television, the news channel ITN and the Guardian, he has written and taught on the role of journalism in civic societies, ethical matters in reporting war, terror and politics, as well as the value of news.

Statement of Charlie Beckett on behalf of how to save journalism:
‘Journalism is more popular than ever before and multiplying in its forms and sources. To save the journalism industry the news media must adapt to this. At the same time legacy forms will stay strong but the trends towards distributed news are clear. Journalism must find new ways to engage, personalise and interact with the audience. But it must also reorder its priorities to stop doing low quality duplicated content and concentrate on deeper, more original, value-added production on those new platforms and in new formats such as mobile, video and data journalism.’