There are images that stick in our minds. For me, one such image is a photo you all know, a photo from Mariupol. It shows an injured pregnant woman on a stretcher being carried out of a burning maternity hospital hit by Russian bombs.
This image and a great deal of additional reporting from Mariupol are the work of two brave reporters: Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka. They were the last journalists reporting from a city under siege.
Their pictures and accounts tell the truth about Russia’s war in Ukraine.
I’m delighted that the German Media Forum is honouring them with the Freedom of Speech Award today. They stand for the courage of hundreds of journalists reporting from Ukraine.
They shed light on what Russia is trying to cover up: bombs and rockets launched against residential areas, civilians murdered in cold blood – some of the worst war crimes on European soil seen in decades.
Russia is fighting this war with brutal military force – but also with disinformation: For months, Russian state propaganda and pro-Kremlin media have been spreading lies about Ukraine.
And the Russian Parliament passed a law that effectively banned independent reporting on the war in Ukraine. Journalists who counter official propaganda about a so-called “special operation” risk up to 15 years in prison.
Such repression against media freedom and independent journalism is a cause for concern not only in Russia, but around the world.
Authoritarian regimes everywhere are trying to restrict freedom of speech and the press.They are forcing media offices to close down – as happened to Deutsche Welle in Moscow.
They are spreading disinformation; they are intimidating, persecuting and, in the worst cases, killing media professionals. But also in democratic countries, journalists are confronted by death threats on social media every day.
As a society, we cannot accept this.
I firmly believe that free and democratic societies need free media – to inform citizens, and to hold those in power accountable. And it is our task to create the conditions under which journalists can work freely.
Deutsche Welle's Global Media Forum is making a vital contribution to achieving this goal. People throughout the world rely on Deutsche Welle as a source for factual, objective and balanced reporting.
You provide information in countries where press freedom is restricted.
And you are strengthening the foundations of journalism – with the Deutsche Welle Academy, which trains journalists from around the world.
In all of these areas, the Federal Foreign Office will continue to be a close partner of Deutsche Welle – and an ally for promoting free speech.
I am delighted that the Federal Foreign Office is establishing a new global protection and funding programme for journalists at risk.
It will benefit brave media professionals and other people defending the freedom of expression who had to flee their homes in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.
Many of you, guests at this year’s Global Media Forum, work under challenging conditions and take personal risks to report the truth.
To all of you, I would like to say one thing: thank you. Thank you for your commitment and for your bravery.
Your voices are needed!
Because the truth is indispensable – in Mariupol and in Moscow, in Brussels and in Bonn.