Freedom of opinion, like any other kind of freedom, has its limits, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her opening remarks at this year’s Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum (GMF), titled “Disruption and Innovation.”
Angela Merkel began proceedings by addressing participants at the two-day event, which included delegates from more than 120 countries, with an on-screen message.
“Whether in the digital or the analogue world, freedom of opinion, like any other kind of freedom, has its limits. And these limits are to be found where the freedoms and fundamental rights of others are violated,” said Chancellor Merkel, stressing that personal rights need to be respected.
“In democratic societies, where we are open to new developments,” Merkel said, “we must also always conscientiously consider what freedom means to us in concrete terms and how we protect freedom and fundamental rights.”
Limbourg: Press freedom under pressure in Europe
In his own introductory remarks, DW Director General Peter Limbourg underlined how press freedom has come under pressure in Europe – particularly under the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus.
“What is happening in Belarus is a disgrace for Europe, and it would not be possible without the massive support of the Russian government,” Limbourg said.
He also drew attention to the recent conviction of Belarusian journalist Alexander Burakov, who was sentenced to 20 days in prison after reporting on a court case for DW. “When it comes to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, we have to take a clear stand,” Limbourg said – and do so “all over the world.”
In the wake of the pandemic, Limbourg called on media makers from around the world to work harder on “solution-oriented journalism,” saying that this is what users in the digital world expect from journalists today.
Participants at this year’s Global Media Forum included Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tikhanouskaya, as well as leading US professors including Timothy Snyder, whose research has shed light on autocratic developments in Eastern Europe.
Freedom of Speech Award to Nigerian journalist
This year’s Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award was awarded to 33-year-old Nigerian journalist Tobore Ovuorie, who uncovered the trail of human traffickers who force women from Nigeria into prostitution, including in Europe.
Her discoveries took place over months of research, some of which was undercover and put her life at risk, and led to Nigerian authorities launching investigations against the perpetrators.
When accepting her award, Ovuorie highlighted the challenges that journalists consistently face in her country. “Being a journalist in Nigeria is difficult. We struggle for economic basis for our works and fight for access to information. We have doors slammed in our faces when we ask questions and are bullied, intimidated, arrested and imprisoned,” said Ovuorie. “I can confidently say that the free press in my country and surrounding African countries, like Cameroon, is in terrible shape.”
Source: Deutsche Welle