I would like to start with the words of a Russian journalist.
A journalist whose name I won’t mention because I don’t want to endanger her.
“The work is very different from what I was doing before 24 February 2022.
At that time, I was the culture editor at a large Russian media company. It was difficult for me to leave my favourite job.
Still, I feel that my mission now is to edit political stories and help citizen journalists find their voice.”
This journalist left Saint Petersburg after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and now works in exile, from Riga.
She is one of 1000 media workers whom the German Government has been supporting in the past 12 months – through the Hannah Arendt Initiative.
Like her, many of them can now continue to work in exile.
Their work – your work as journalists and media representatives – is crucial.
Free societies need free media – to report the truth and to hold those in power accountable.
Your work is also crucial if we want to make progress in “overcoming divisions” in this so complex world – as the theme of this year’s Global Media Forum states.
I strongly believe that in order to overcome division we now need to step into one another’s shoes.
We need to be willing to understand one another’s perspectives.
That is particularly important at the moment – in the face of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine, which is causing suffering and pain well beyond Europe.
Europe is far away for many people around the world.
And I hear the voices of those who say that we are not paying enough attention to their conflicts and crises in their parts of the world – in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
And therefore – I think to a certain degree not without reason – they also say: Why should we care about the European peace order?
This shows again how interconnected we are in this complex world.
And that if we want to overcome divisions in this world, we have to see and understand different perspectives. We have to hear the concerns, see where they are coming from and discuss what we can do to overcome divisions in our perceptions.
You, as media professionals and reporters, have a key role to play in this – in elevating different voices and perspectives.
That’s why it is alarming that your freedom to report is coming increasingly under attack.
In more than 70 percent of countries around the world, press freedom is considered “problematic” or worse, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Also, my country – Germany – has slipped five positions to 21st place. Unfortunately, we are seeing despicable cases of violence against reporters in our country, especially at demonstrations.
I want to state this very clearly: attacks on the freedom to report are simply unacceptable – anywhere.
That’s why we as a Government have the obligation to protect free media – also at demonstrations that are directed against us ourselves.
That’s why we are working for a safe environment for journalists – everywhere.
That’s why we are developing projects like the Hannah Arendt initiative.
And that’s why your exchange in Bonn today, at the GMF, is so important:
so that we can become better at “overcoming divisions”.
Thank you for your courageous work.