Natural and artificial barriers that divide humanity were broken down as people of all colours, races and religions happily and lovingly gathered and mingled together in Bonn, Germany, for the 2022 Global Media Forum conference. Over 2, 000 media experts, journalists and players in other fields of life across the globe participated in the conference organised by the Deutche Welle (DW). Innocent Duru was there.
The city of Bonn, Germany, witnessed a large number of visitors when media experts, journalists and other professionals gathered for the 2022 Global Media Forum conference held between June 20 and 21, to discuss issues affecting the journalism profession especially in times of crisis.
The 2022 Global Media Forum conference was themed ‘Shaping tomorrow, now’.
The DW Global Media Forum is Germany’s only international conference for representatives of the media from all over the world. Together with its main partners, the German Federal Foreign Office, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Foundation for International Dialogue of the Savings Bank in Bonn, the Federal ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the City of Bonn, DW offers media professionals a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary discussions with opinion-leaders from different fields around the pressing issues of our time.
The gathering provided opportunities for young media professionals to learn from top media professionals who have distinguished themselves in the profession. It was also an opportunity for networking as participants freely shared contacts and related with one another.
For the fellows, the conference started with six workshops on the 19th. The participants gathered in the various groups they had earlier indicated interest. Seasoned and distinguished media professionals were assigned to handle each workshop.
This reporter described the session on ‘Foreign Ground’ that he attended as an eye opener. The session was handled by multiple award winning journalist, Tom Heinemann.
“It was a great experience listening to him. He took us through how he was able to penetrate many impenetrable walls to do stories that exposed a series of corruption and abuses in high places. His stories were helping me to develop story ideas I can explore back in Nigeria. I sincerely appreciate DW for that great experience,” he said.
Florence Majani,a DW Correspondent in Tanzania who participated in a podcast workshop said she was able to acquire knowledge on the best way to present and the importance of podcast in a digital era. “I also participated African Reporting panel, and I learnt a lot as an African journalist, what we don’t do and what should be done in our reporting.
“It was my first time to attend the Global Media Forum. The forum was an eye opener for me as a journalist as it introduced me to the global topic like the Russian and Ukraine war and the role of a journalist in conflict zones.”
Aggrey Mutambo, News Editor, The EastAfrican said the most memorable moment for him was the discussion on fake news. “Certainly, in a world where information overload is a daily occurrence, learning the tools to filter what is accurate and what is false is as important as getting the right prescription for one’s ailment. It is true that even the most advanced economies and democracies are still battling fake news. This simply means that fake news hurts everyone in the globe.
“But there is a thin line between combating fake news and curtailing freedoms. Indeed, the panelists showed great examples. In Kenya, a free campaign in 2017 allowed purveyors of fake news using Cambridge Analyica to soil opponents’ names. It is no wonder that Facebook decided to weed out fake accounts soon after.
The problem though is that deciding what is fake is often a matter of local context. And it was appalling to learn from panelists that Facebook or many of the social media platforms do not have enough local personnel to do the job.”
Aggrey’s kinsman, Eliud, described the workshop on disinformation he participated in as very good. “The speakers explained well the challenges with disinformation and how to counter it.”
On June 20, when the conference started, the hall was filled to capacity and so it was throughout the event.
In his opening speech, DW Director General Peter Limbourg emphasized the challenges of reporting the war in Ukraine: “This is one of the times in history when journalism can definitely prove its relevance. We cannot stop the war, but we can contribute to decisive political action by keeping the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in the headlines,” he said.
Limbourg added: “We are facing a storm of disinformation, propaganda and censorship. When the free and independent voices work together, we can withstand this storm and make a difference.”
In the course of the conference, he addressed the loss of media credibility. “We are confronted with a storm of disinformation, propaganda and censorship. When the free and independent voices work together, we can withstand this storm and make a difference.”
Nobel Prize laureate Maria Ressa opened her keynote with the questions: “How do we rebuild trust? Because that is what illiberal governments have destroyed. If you don’t have integrity of facts, how can you have integrity of elections?” adding: “The three pillars of technology, journalism and the community will help rebuild trust in journalism.”
Talking about his takeaway from the conference, Founder and CEO of Constructive Institute, Ulrik Haagerup in a chat with our correspondent, said: My takeaway from this meeting is that a lot of people are curious to find new ways of doing things. I think we are becoming an industry and opening our eyes more and more mainly because we can see the logic that if we do as we had done we would end up with the result we had always got. We need to think differently. It mainly comes from a new generation. A lot of young reporters don’t want to do click bait all their lives. They want to tell important stories and want to do good for the society and constructive journalism gives them a way of doing that. That is why it is so powerful.”
Shedding light on what difference Constructive journalism can make in today’s journalism practice, Ulrik said: “ Constructive Journalism is trying to build on top of traditional journalism which mainly focuses on news, we now call breaking news or investigative journalism. News is focusing on what is happening right now. Investigative journalism is focusing on what happened yesterday. Constructive journalism is trying to build on those two.
“When we know all these, then asking the questions now what and how? Which are questions pointing to the future. The idea that journalism can also be about tomorrow which is to many journalists a pretty new thing. You can’t film tomorrow. It is not dramatic but you can actually do that. If you have a problem in Nigeria it is interesting to see how they solved it in Burundi.”
Commending the organisers, he said: “It is great they did this event bringing a lot of people together. A conference like this, if you use it right, it is a good way of spending your time.”
Africans delighted by participation
Africans who attended the conference commended the organisers for the opportunity. Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Mrs Motunrayo Alaka , said: “The conversations were very important and it was good to bring practitioners in the industry together to talk about the issues that affect the industry, the issues of ethics, the issues of sustainability, the issues of recruitment and succession, the issues of coverage and how we cover our biases and stereotypes about covering various issues depending on what part of the world we are in.
“For African journalists it is a place to learn, it is a place to connect with colleagues and really come to realise that even though we look like we are out of the picture, we are very much in the picture because there is a lot of good journalism happening in Africa and in Nigeria. It is also a time for reflection for us to think about our continent and our country, to think about how we can improve access to good resources for journalism so that journalists can do this work in better conditions. It is also a time for us to connect with other colleagues to make international and indeed local networks because we met here some other African journalists and we heard about progress in journalism that we did not know about. We also heard about challenges in journalism that we did not know about. It is a good time to reflect, connect with colleagues, connect with issues and to go back home and think of what we can do differently. How can we begin to harmonise ourselves, and collaborate so that journalism can be better for us all.”
She added: “I come to these conferences mainly to have a moment of reflection and to network and I will say that I have made a significant difference to me because I have met a lot of people. We have had a lot of discussions that we are taking forward from here. I have also learnt from so many people about what they are doing in journalism and I have written a lot of notes about what I can incorporate into training for journalists, what I can share in conversation with other journalists because I have seen it and I have met other people who have experienced some of them.
“ I have also been able to make contacts because part of the work that I do is to connect Nigerian journalists to the world. I have also been able to make contacts that will help me to do that better. Also in running the organization itself, I have leant from other people’s challenges and some other people’s successes on things that we can do t better as an organization. Definitely I will be going back to reflect on them and to see what is adaptable to our environment.”
Commenting on the organization, she said: “It is a great conference that DW has put together, a lot of thinking, a lot of good organizing. I wrote a lot of notes on event planning because I love organizing events. They have made a lot of efforts for inclusion of Africans, Asians and others.
Stella Gaitano, a South Sudenese,, writer described the conference as a great event that “brings all these minds in one place. I think everyone now here in this forum cares about the future and wants to work for it. I really feel so energised about people who are around me here and I hope this network will help us to work together to achieve what we are talking about.
“The theme of the conference for me addresses what I am doing for my daily life. All the time I am talking about we have to break the chain somewhere. What we are now collecting as Africans is buried somewhere or behind history. If we need change we need to do something new so that the next generation will benefit better from the knowledge we are acquiring now.”
Relishing the new contacts she had made, she said: “Networking is a very strong thing. I think from this forum I have heard many stories that I hadn’t heard before in my country. Everybody I have spoken with has the same feeling. To change the past we are supposed to unite, we are supposed to support each other through the media, forums, and conferences so that we can shape the future.
“My message to Deutche Welle is that they should continue to invite Africans because they have vision. Africans need to be empowered. They need to raise their voices to talk about change. This kind of event is giving them the chance to talk about the change we need.”
A Cameroonian and photographer based in the Netherlands, Angèle Etoundi Essamba said in a chat with The Nation that: “ The conference is just wonderful because we realized how important it is to come together and we all have the same concern about how our continent can be better off. It doesn’t matter if you are based outside Africa. The most important thing is just to do it and we are doing it in different ways through journalism, literature, and visual arts. This is just very, very important.
“ This conference has proved the need for collaboration. I am surprised to find journalists from Cameroon Television here. The main Cameroon newspaper is here. I feel very delighted a\bout this. The conference puts discussions about Africa on the table. I just want to sincerely and profoundly appreciate the DW for putting this together. I just want to encourage them to keep organizing this kind of event and keep inviting people from all over the world. It shows that Africa counts and it is up to us to relay that information to people back at home. This is not just about journalism, it is about literature about arts. I mean it is just great.”
Speaking to The Nation, Nigerian award winning filmmaker, Ike Nnaebue, said “ this is just a very important event. I attended a few sessions and the quality of the conversations is quite interesting and I like the fact that people are able to speak from their hearts and speak to the truth. I think it is a very important platform for journalists and even non-journalists who are in the space of storytelling to sort of compare notes on issues that are under-reported or not being reported properly. I like the focus on Africa this year. I don’t know if they have always had a lot of focus on Africa but I noticed that there is a lot of focus on Africa this time around.
“I don’t see a lot of difference in the job of a filmmaker and journalist, especially the guys who are on television. We are all story tellers including those who work on print. We are all storytellers especially if you are a documentary film maker. I don’t feel out of place among all the journalists. It looks like I am the only film maker in the building but I don’t feel out of place. I feel we are all colleagues focusing on different aspects of storytelling.”
Asked what difference the lessons learnt at the conference will have on his work, he said: “This conference will help me find areas of focus and find areas that are important to focus on stories and issues that need to be tackled more seriously. As a filmmaker you get a lot of ideas coming to you every day and at the end of the day you can only work with one idea at a time. So conferences like these have helped me to map out the areas of focus.
“I think it is going to bring a lot of gains to Africa as a continent because we are having Africa conversation at a global level and this is not just about people talking about Africa outside Africans. This is Africans getting involved in the conversations and looking at other people from other continents and saying this is the issue, this is what we need you to do if say you are interested in supporting Africa.”
The DW, he said, has done a great job, adding: “They should keep it up. They are really doing a lot to support storytelling and journalism on the continent. I quite appreciate their efforts. The world now is a global village and it all shows are brothers and sisters. There is no need for this is Africa, this is Europe, this is white, this is black. It doesn’t make any sense. Whatever happens in Africa affects people in Europe and vice versa. I like the consciousness of ones. We should try harder to promote oneness.”
DW honour Ukrainian photojournalists
Journalists at the conference were motivated to promote freedom of speech when DW honored Ukrainian photojournalists Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka with the Freedom of Speech Award in recognition of their courageous reporting of the Russian attacks on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in February and March. Jodie Ginsberg, president of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), delivered the laudatory speech. Ensaf Haidar, wife of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who received the first Freedom of Speech Award in 2015 while in prison for ten years, read a welcoming speech.
In a video statement, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock commended this year’s DW Freedom of Speech Award laureates Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka: “I’m delighted that the Global Media Forum is honouring them with the Freedom of Speech Award today. They stand for the courage of hundreds of journalists reporting from Ukraine.
“I firmly believe that free and democratic societies need free media to inform citizens and hold those in power accountable. DW’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. Because truth is indispensable – in Mariupol and in Moscow, in Brussels and in Bonn.”
In his closing remarks, DW Director General Peter Limbourg emphasized the strength of DW’s Global Media Forum in bringing even people from countries in conflict with each other into conversation and constructive debate. “The diversity, reflected in the presence of journalists from Russia, Ukraine, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, was the strength of DW’s Global Media Forum,” he said. “We can ask critical questions. We can address everything. I’m really happy that we had these two days in Bonn.”
Cruise round the Rhine
The conference closed with a dinner cruise along the Rhine River Valley. Participants were taken round the Rhine on a massive ship. Food and drinks were abundantly provided. The high point of the dinner was the electrifying musical performance put up by a highly talented band. The band combined good music with excellent stagecraft to set the atmosphere on fire. For the participants, it was a night to remember.