Media Dialogue Program for Ukrainian journalists
In March 2017, eleven Ukrainian journalists, representatives of national and regional media, took part in the Foundation for Freedom’s Media Dialogue Program in Berlin. They compared day-to-day realities of Ukrainian and German media, exchanged professional experience and learned about modern technologies in the workshop “Media Management and Technology of Web Media”.
Gernot Wolfram from Macromedia University introduced the German media landscape. According to him, the most significant rule in media work in Germany is the absence of censorship, respect for freedom of speech and press freedom. He moreover emphasized journalists’ ethics: “In Germany even tabloids check the verity of the information and they also need to prove the source of their material.”
Wolfram moreover informed on the variety of German media and indicated the service Euro Topics, a website that presents different points of view of international media on the same world news.
Eva Werner, Deputy Press Officer of the German Federation of Journalists (DJV – Deutscher Journalisten-Verband), gave insight into the DJV’s activities. DJV includes about 35,000 members – representatives of different media (including from internet portals, photographers and spokespersons of different institutions).
“About 50% of German journalists are freelancers. The DJV’s goal in relation to the freelancers is to protect their work. For example, if a journalist-freelancer did not get his honorarium or some agreements were broken or if the journalist needs legal defense, he can ask us for help.” – said Eva Werner.
Roman Portack, spokesperson, introduced the German Press Council (Presserat). Founded in 1956, the Council’s goals are lobbying for press freedom and the press’s public image, processing of complaints against publications (including internet publications since 2009) and modernization of the German Press Code.
All the members of the Presserat (about 90% of the German media market) follow the regulations of the Press Code.
“If a person wants to make a complaint against a certain publication, it could be done through a letter (also fax and e-mail are allowed) or on the website with the underlying rationale for violations of rules of the Press Code. First of all, we send the complaint to an editorial office and ask to comment the content. Consequently we have two points of view before the preliminary consideration. Upon that the case is delivered to the commission, which consists of 8 persons (4 journalists and 4 editors) and the final decision will be sent to the editorial office.” – said Roman Portack.
On the legal aspects a journalist’s work may entail spoke Jan Hegemann, media attorney and media law consultant: “As journalists, you are usually engaged with the private area of other people’s freedom. Here we have the conflict of two main rights: the right to press freedom and the right to privacy.”
Hegemann explained how during the proceedings in a case of violation there are three main areas in a person’s life: intimate, private and social. Media has no rights to publish materials that touch the sphere “intimate”. In relation to the private sphere, there must be public interest prevailing over the private interest of the person concerned. Only the social sphere is completely free for publications. Consequently, in litigation the primary task is to determine which sphere is to be attributed to certain media coverage.
The process of creating independent public broadcasting in Ukraine is one of the trendiest topics concerning the Ukrainian media landscape. In Berlin latest developments were debated with Kyryl Savin, director of the Ukraine project of the Deutsche Welle Academy who supports Ukrainian public broadcasting from Bonn and Dr. Thomas Nissen, lawyer and former legal director of the public broadcaster MDR (a German regional broadcaster), now heading the support group for public broadcasting. As there are several public broadcasters in Germany, Ukraine could possibly learn from some German experience.
Participating in the Federal Press Conference (Bundespressekonferenz, BPK) introduced a special conference format where the government spokesperson and the spokespersons of the ministries are invited by the press corps to answer all questions relating to political events. The press conference takes place according to a fixed schedule: every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Mathis Feldhoff, representative of the BPK, informed that BPK is a membership club with clear regulations and entry requirements.
Marcus Bösch, journalist, lecturer, co-founder of the Good Evil Game Studio and partner at the virtual reality studio Vragments, facilitated the workshop “Media management and technology of web media”, offering participants to “dip into the future” against the background of the rapid technology development in the 21st century. Participants discussed using “drones” and “photo & video 360°” technologies. In the focus were working with virtual reality and “news games”, which became more popular lately, for example, the President Evil game, developed by Marcus’s team.
In the center of an exchange with “Zeit Online” was tackling the challenges of propaganda, fake news and “lying press” campaigns. Maike Dülffer, managing editor, and Steffen Dobbert, reporter of “Zeit Online”, himself a frequent guest in Ukraine, described their operating peculiarities. A separate matter of interest for the Ukrainian guests was how the Russia-Ukraine-war is presented in the German media.
Overall, the Ukrainian media professionals got some insight into Germany’s media industry and about journalists’ options for self-organization. Germany is a country where freedom of speech and press freedom are widely valued principles – this is the main impression the group was left with after the visit.
The opportunity to dip into the cultural life of Berlin and to find out more about the city’s particular history was an important and valued part of the visit as well.